June 19, 2018 / 3:43 PM / in a month

German AfD accuses Merkel allies of copying tough line on migrants

BERLIN (Reuters) - The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) accused Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies on Tuesday of copying its tough line on dealing with migrants, as the parties vie for votes before elections in the southern state in October.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she leaves after a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (not pictured) at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are embroiled in their own dispute over immigration that has threatened to break apart her coalition government.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who is also interior minister, has drawn up a plan under which Germany would turn away migrants who have already registered in other EU states. Merkel, however, opposes any unilateral move to reverse her 2015 open-door policy and undermine her authority.

The AfD, which is expected to poach votes from the CSU in October, accused Seehofer of electioneering. “(The CSU) fears losing the absolute majority in the Bavarian regional election,” AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said.

Last year his party won seats in the federal parliament for the first time on concerns about security and integration. It could now do the same in Bavaria, with opinion polls putting AfD support in the state at 13 percent.

AfD lawmaker Gottfried Curio also criticized the CSU. “Everyone in the room knows that the CSU wants to copy the AfD program via copy and paste to win over voters until the Sunday of the Bavarian election with a policy of mere announcements,” he said. “But people won’t let themselves be taken for a ride - they’ll vote for the original.”

Speaking after the CSU agreed to give Merkel two weeks to find a European solution to the immigration issue, Curio said Germany should deport migrants who have registered elsewhere and those who have come via safe third countries while it should be more rigorous in deporting those who are obliged to leave.

In April the German government said it would continue controls at its border with Austria for six more months to ensure Germany’s security and deal with migrant flows.

Armin Laschet, a senior Christian Democrat, urged his party to end the dispute with the CSU quickly, saying it had strengthened extreme groups.

Interior Ministry data shows the number of new arrivals in Germany seeking asylum fell 33 percent on the year to 186,000 in 2017. This was also down from 890,000 in 2015, at the peak of the migrant crisis.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by David Stamp

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