June 5, 2018 / 3:50 PM / a year ago

Bavarian conservatives toughen asylum rules before October vote

MUNICH (Reuters) - The conservative government in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria announced tough rules for asylum seekers on Tuesday, four months before an election expected to see an anti-immigrant party enter the regional parliament for the first time.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavaria-based sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), wants to limit cash stipends for migrants, deport more of them and hold new migrants seeking asylum in reception centers.

The CSU, which opinion polls show may lose its absolute majority in the Bavarian parliament, has been accused of trying to keep at bay the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) by adopting its tough line on asylum.

The CSU says it is responding to demands from the public to expel those who have no right for protection and send a clear signal to future economic migrants that the rules have changed since a record influx of one million asylum seekers in 2015.

“We want to show that the rule of law here is functional and could be a model for all of Germany,” Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said.

His government wants to train some 1,000 new police officers to monitor the wealthy southern state’s border with Austria, the gateway for most migrants coming to Germany.

It also wants to set up seven reception centers where migrants will be held until a decision is made on their asylum applications. The goal is to speed up both the asylum process and deportations for those denied protection. Bavaria further wants to operate its own charter flights to deport migrants.

Under German law, the federal government processes asylum applications, but expulsion orders are left to the regional governments in Germany’s 16 states. They usually rely on federally funded flights for deportations.

After suffering losses to the AfD in an election in September, Merkel’s CDU, the CSU and the Social Democrat (SPD) formed a coalition government that took office in March. They agreed in negotiations setting up the coalition to tighten asylum rules and set up reception centers for new migrants.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said the federal government want to have the first reception center ready in autumn.

The right-left coalition also wants to limit to 1,000 a month the number of migrants who can join family members granted protection in Germany.

The AfD, which has seats in 14 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments, is competing with the SPD for second place in the October election in Bavaria. Opinion polls forecast the CSU will win some 40 percent of votes.

Writing by Joseph Nasr, editing by Larry King

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