‘Not only compassion, but also reason’: German Catholic Church calls for reducing refugee inflow

Archbishop Reinhard Marx © Ina Fassbender
The German Catholic Church has called for the curbing of the refugee influx into the country with Munich’s Archbishop saying that Germany cannot “accept all the world’s needy.”

“Also as the Church, we say [that] we need a reduction in the numbers of refugees,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference and the head of the Catholic Church in Germany, told Passauer Neue Presse.

The question of taking in refugees involves “not only compassion but also reason,” Marx said stressing that it is impossible for Germany to “accept all the world’s needy.”

At the same time, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising argued against the restrictions of the right to asylum. “Everyone, who enters Europe, should be treated fairly and with dignity,” he said, adding that the borders of Europe should not be “the borders of death.”

Marx also sharply criticized the German right-wing anti-immigrant AfD (Alternative for Germany) party for its stance towards refugees. “It is unacceptable and inhuman to suggest shooting at unarmed refugees,” he said referring to one of the latest statements by the AfD leader Frauke Petry.

“Parties that suggest such ideas are no ‘alternative for Germany’,” Marx said mocking the party’s name. The cleric also expressed his concern over the growing xenophobia in Germany amid the worst refugee crisis since World War II. 

"Sadly there has always been a certain potential for right-wing extremism and racism in Germany," he said adding that “this ideology has evidently been further consolidated” and “reached the middle class.”

Merkel calls for better protection for EU external borders

In the meantime, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the EU to provide better protection for its external borders in order to cope with the refugee crisis and maintain the passport-free Schengen zone.

"We need to protect our external borders because we want to keep Schengen," Merkel said in her weekly radio statement, Reuters reports. If EU fails in securing its borders, it will “put the free movement of people within the Single European Market, which is the sources of Europe’s wealth, at risk,” she added, as reported by ARD.

Merkel stressed that EU borders “are particularly not very well protected there, where we have sea borders,” implicitly criticizing Greece, which is accused by some other EU countries of failing to stem the flow of refugees coming from Turkey, without mentioning the country’s name.

She also once again stated that a solution to the refugee crisis could be found in cooperating with Turkey. Merkel is going to visit Ankara on Monday to meet with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in order to discuss the issue of refugees and find a solution to the crisis that would include putting an end to people trafficking.

At the same time, Merkel stressed that Europe should be ready to legally accept refugees once the illegal trafficking is stopped. “Europe cannot just keep aloof from this [issue],” she said as quoted by ARD.

Merkel also emphasized the importance of financial aid amounting to €3 billion ($3.35 billion) that the EU promised Turkey in dealing with the refugee flows.

In the meantime, the vast majority of the country's citizens disagree with Merkel’s refugee policy, a poll by ARD Deutschlandtrend conducted last weekend demonstrated. More than four in five Germans believe Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government isn’t controlling the refugee crisis, with the government’s voter support dropping from 57 to 38 percent since July 2015.

40 percent of Germans believe Merkel should step down over her refugee policy, according to January’s Insa survey for Focus magazine.