‘Slackers of Europe’: Berlin condemns Westminster refusal to take more refugees

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britian's Prime Minister David Cameron © Hannibal Hanschke
Britain’s failure to accept more asylum seekers in the intensifying global refugee crisis could threaten Anglo-German relations and hinder Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to prize back powers from Brussels, a leading German MP has warned. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s core ally Stephen Mayer said Britain’s stance on the refugee crisis could damage Germany’s relationship with the UK and the Tories’ agenda of renegotiating Britain’s EU membership.

Britain’s refusal to take more refugees has sparked anger in Germany, with one newspaper labeling Britain “the slackers of Europe.”

Speaking to the Times, Mayer said the flood of refugees entering Europe represents a serious challenge and if Westminster remains “out of the club” in dealing with the crisis its relationship with Berlin could be damaged.

Cameron, who is relying on Merkel’s support as he pushes for reform of the EU, was informed her backing could be in jeopardy.

“I have always had sympathy and understanding for the British role in the EU and the demands for renegotiation,” Mayer said.

“But we are now in such a huge humanitarian catastrophe, I do not have any sympathy or understanding for one-country-orientated positions.”

Austrian Chancellor Werner Farymann echoed Mayer’s brash warning, also calling on Britain to accept more refugees.

The Austrian government previously called for EU states, which fail to take a sufficient number of refugees, to face funding cuts. However, Farymann’s outburst marks the first time the Austrian government has overtly threatened Britain’s demands for EU reform.

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Austria is facing a massive influx of refugees making their way from Hungary, many of whom are fleeing war-ravaged Syria. In addition to Germany, it is demanding EU states create a quota system to deal with the crisis. However, in June, Cameron opted out of this proposed scheme at an EU summit.

Mayer’s scathing criticism of the Tory response to the crisis comes as former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband called upon the British government to take in more refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and elsewhere. Speaking to the Guardian, he warned a continued failure to do so would mark an outright abandonment of Britain’s humanitarian traditions. 

Miliband’s view on the crisis contrasts sharply with that of UK Independent Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, who advocates tighter immigration measures in Britain.

Speaking on Monday, he accused the European Union (EU) of creating the refugee crisis by adopting an “idiotic” asylum policy that would allow up to half a billion people to file for refugee status.

Farage, a staunch Euroskeptic, went on to claim that 100,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa, who turn up at Europe’s borders each month, were drawn by the likelihood they would not be asked to leave.

On Wednesday, statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed the current global refugee crisis marks the biggest flow of people across the world since 1948.

According to the IOM’s research, over 234,770 asylum seekers have landed in Greece since January 2015, 114,276 arrived in Italy and thousands more have landed in Spain and Malta. This compares with 219,000 who arrived in Europe in 2014.

Many Europeans are disgusted by the continued death of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, with growing numbers calling for Europe to open its borders to those fleeing war and conflict.

In Iceland, an online campaign demanding the Icelandic government take in more refugees has already gained 12,000 supporters.

The online campaign has attracted attention in the Middle East, with Arab human rights campaigners calling on Gulf States to take in Syrian refugees.

However, no Syrians have been accepted by Saudi Arabia or other wealthy Gulf States despite their proximity to war-torn Syria.

Labour Party leadership candidate Yvette Cooper has also urged the British government to take in more refugees. Speaking at a conference in London on Tuesday, Cooper suggested Britain’s towns and cities could accommodate 10,000 refugees annually. 

She said the UK has a duty to accept far more people fleeing despotic regimes, and a failure to do so would be “cowardly and immoral.”

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