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Germany In Turmoil Over Migration


And now to Germany, where the government is in danger of collapsing over the issue of migration. The German interior minister has threatened to defy his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, by closing his country's southern borders to most migrants. That would be a violation of EU law. Merkel has tried in the past two days to ease the political standoff with a hard-won European Union plan to crack down on migrants. But NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin that the chancellor's attempt appears to have failed. We go to Soraya now.

Welcome, Soraya. Thanks for joining us.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Sure. Great to talk to you, Michel.

MARTIN: We've been waiting to hear from the interior minister about what he will do. Is there any indication yet?

NELSON: Well, there was some noise from various news agencies that he, in fact, had offered - that the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, had offered his resignation from the cabinet, from the government and also from his party, his Bavarian conservatives, which are the ones, of course, who are talking about breaking away from Angela Merkel over this issue of migration. It now appears that he did offer this resignation, but it wasn't accepted.

MARTIN: So take us to what this could mean for Merkel's government.

NELSON: Well, the issue is, of course, of migration. Do you close the borders in order to prevent more migrants from coming in, even though they're not coming in in huge numbers right now? But it's also optics. And what's basically happening is that the people in Bavaria - or the party in Bavaria is very concerned that they're going to lose to the far-right Alternative for Germany just the same way that they lost votes to this group as a faction with Merkel's government back in September during the elections then. And so it's - this is coming to a real head now, where they feel - where some anyway in the Bavarian government feel that - the state government feel that perhaps she should resign. Perhaps it's time for Angela Merkel to go.

And so if, let's say, the interior minister quits - if the party is accepting of that, then there perhaps could be, you know, resolution, and they could come back together. But, if not - I mean, this coalition - governing coalition took months to form, and it's not going to stay together. I mean, you know they're not going to have enough votes - or Angela Merkel will not have enough votes in order to be able to govern effectively.

MARTIN: And, before we let you go, as we said, this is an issue all over the world. But why has the issue of migration become so inflammatory in Germany?

NELSON: Well, everybody remembers 2015 in the summer when a lot of migrants were coming - I mean, just hundreds of thousands of them. And that turned into a problem. I mean, there have been some high-profile criminal cases. There have been a lot of migrants whose asylum cases just have languished, and so you have people who aren't working and hanging around.

And because Germans have had - I mean, basically, the Alternative for Germany and other groups have been using this to make people feel uncomfortable (laughter), and they've been gaining votes that way. And so it really is an issue now where they - where many Germans want Germany to stand up and say, no, we won't take them anymore. And that's something Angela Merkel has not been willing to do.

MARTIN: That's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

Soraya, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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