October 16, 2015 / 7:15 PM / 4 years ago

Merkel defends 'transit zones' to better cope with refugee influx

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference after an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday defended a proposal to set up “transit zones” at German borders to filter out migrants who clearly have no chance of gaining asylum, declaring she would not rest until she had persuaded her junior coalition partner.

Germany is struggling to cope with a record influx of more than 800,000 migrants. Senior conservatives have raised the pressure on Merkel to focus on measures to reduce the number of new arrivals.

Speaking at an event in Hamburg organized by the youth wing of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel said her approach was based on Christian values and that the respect for human dignity had to be the “central benchmark”.

“But this doesn’t mean that we’ll shelter everyone,” Merkel said, adding that those migrants who come to Germany for a better life and were not in real danger would be sent back.

Merkel said the government would soon pass more measures to handle the refugee influx, including temporary establishment of so-called transit zones at land borders.

The conservative leader said European Union rules provide for such a move actually only at the bloc’s external border, but in exceptional cases Brussels allowed such measures also at internal borders for a limited time.

“I think this won’t solve all the problems, but if such measures are possible under EU rules..., we have to make use of such a possibility,” Merkel said despite fierce criticism of leading Social Democrats, the junior partner in her coalition.

“And I can tell you I won’t rest before we have persuaded the Social Democrats,” the chancellor added.

While Merkel’s Bavarian allies have insisted on putting up “transit zones” at the border to Austria to better control the influx of migrants, senior Social Democrats have said the idea was impossible to implement and wrong in human terms.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; editing by Ralph Boulton

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