October 31, 2015 / 5:13 PM / 4 years ago

Crunch talks for Merkel on refugee crisis as thousands more arrive

BERLIN (Reuters) - Nearly 10,000 refugees continued to arrive in Germany daily, police said on Saturday, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the country’s stretched border staff ahead of a crunch meeting between Angela Merkel and a Bavarian ally on the crisis.

Migrants walk along a street after crossing Austrian-German border from Achleiten, Austria, in Passau, Germany, October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Chancellor Merkel will discuss refugee policy on Saturday evening with Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and who has criticized her asylum policy and handling of the crisis.

The CSU, sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has been outspoken about her “open doors” policy towards refugees, in part because its home state of Bavaria is the entry point for virtually all of the migrants arriving in Germany.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million refugees and migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any prior year.

The huge numbers have fueled anti-immigration sentiment, with support for Merkel’s conservatives dropping to its lowest level in more than three years. There have also been a spate of right-wing attacks on shelters: police in Dresden reported two more arson attacks on Friday night on a hotel and a container, both of which were planned to house refugees and asylum seekers.

On Sunday, Merkel and Seehofer will hold talks with Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the other party in her “grand coalition”, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Conservative officials believe it is likely Seehofer will come away from this weekend’s meetings with Merkel with a deal to introduce so-called ‘transit zones’ at border crossings to process refugees’ asylum requests.

SPD politicians have rejected that idea, instead calling for faster registration and processing of asylum applications.

The crisis has also prompted squabbling among EU states over how best to deal with the influx. European leaders last weekend agreed to cooperate to manage migrants crossing the Balkans but offered no quick fix.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe needed to work together to come up with a solution to the crisis but that Germany would continue to welcome refugees.

“We will not slam the door in the face of the refugees,” she said at a security conference in Bahrain.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Holger Hansen; Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy and William Maclean in Bahrain; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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