German government rejects 'absurd' remark of populist party leader on shooting migrants

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government rejected on Monday as “absurd” a suggestion from the leader of an increasingly popular opposition right-wing party that police be given powers to use firearms against illegal migrants.

Frauke Petry, Chairwoman of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, attends the party congress in Hannover, November 28, 2015.REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has jumped amid deepening public unease over Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees from Syria and elsewhere after some 1.1 million people entered Germany last year.

Asked about AfD leader Frauke Petry’s suggestion on the use of firearms against migrants, Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier said: “This proposal is inhuman and absurd. With this suggestion, the AfD has shown its true colours.”

Speaking to local newspapers in an interview to be published on Tuesday, Altmaier said he thought support for the AfD would now fall. Opinion polls currently put it in third place on about 13 percent, behind Merkel’s conservatives and her centre-left coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD).

But German disquiet over the scale of immigration has grown, especially since men of north African and Arab appearance assaulted women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve.

Petry’s deputy, Beatrix von Storch, who is a member of the European Parliament, even suggested on social media that police should be allowed to shoot at migrant women with children in cases of emergency to stop them entering Germany illegally.

A German Interior Ministry spokesman also said on Monday there could be no question of using force against the migrants.

“It goes without saying: no German policeman will use a firearm against people who are searching for protection in Germany,” spokesman Johannes Dimroth told a news conference.

“And it goes without saying that the use of firearms against people to stop an illegal border crossing is unlawful.”

Vice Chancellor and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) should monitor the AfD, adding that the party should not be able to “excrete their slogans” on public television.

In an attempt at damage control, Petry said in a statement on Monday her party was “strictly against” shooting at people who peacefully ask to enter the country.

“Border security needs to be guaranteed within the framework of existing laws and strictly in accordance with the principle of proportionality,” she added.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Gareth Jones