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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Merkel’s CDU Human Rights Speaker Quits Party over ‘Open Door’ Policy

President of the German Federal Association of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen, BdV) Erika Steinbach (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel © Thomas Peter / Reuters

A human rights spokesperson for Chancellor Merkel’s CDU is quitting the conservative party citing sharp discontent with the government’s “political will” to let thousands of unidentified refugees in, despite the risk of terrorists slipping through as well.

Erika Steinbach, a longtime member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the party’s human rights spokesperson, explained her demarche in a Saturday interview with Die Welt.

“Would I vote CDU at the moment? No. Would I join the CDU today? No. I can only draw the honest conclusion of quitting the CDU,” she told the newspaper. 

Steinbach, who until recently was a member of the CDU faction’s leadership, maintained that the government’s decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers into Germany without checking their identity went “against our laws and against EU treaties.”

She claimed that Merkel’s cabinet had deliberately encouraged illegal immigration: “At the Federal Office for Migration, thousands of passports have been identified as counterfeit, without any legal consequences for the respective migrants being drawn. There is a political will behind it.”

She also argued that the failure to identify new arrivals has resulted in a security lapse that has allowed terrorist organizations to send their operatives into Europe.

“With migrants came not only asylum seekers, but also – as many warned from the very outset – terrorists. Our security environment has significantly deteriorated since opening the borders,” Steinbach said.

CDU’s leadership has yet to comment on her decision to resign, though Manfred Pentz, the party head from Steinbach’s home state of Hessen, said that it was “predictable.”

“It would be consistent if she also laid down her Bundestag mandate [her credentials as a lawmaker] which she… owes to the party,” Pentz said.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper has reported that the far-right anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party promptly received Steinbach’s resignation. 

AfD Vice-chairman Alexander Gauland said he will “reach Mrs Steinbach very soon and discuss her future political plans.”

While Steinbach said she isn’t tempted to join the AfD, she expressed hope the party will enter the parliament after September’s general election “so that there is finally an opposition.

Steinbach herself was the subject of intense criticism last year when she posted an image depicting a blonde child surrounded by South Asian-looking women with a caption atop reading “Germany 2030” and one below with the women asking the child, “Where are you from then?”

"Germany 2030, Where are you from then?"

Many considered the tweet to be openly racist and xenophobic. The backlash forced Steinbach to produce an awkward statement that read, “It is not an aggressive photo, there are no Arabic refugees depicted, just friendly Indians looking curiously and [interestedly] at a child,” as cited by Deutsche Welle.

She also waded into hot water in 2012 when she claimed Hitler’s NSDAP was “a left party” because it had the words “socialist” and “workers’” in its name – a statement that also triggered a barrage of criticism in the German media.

Germany took in some 890,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone, but the number dropped to 280,000 the following year due to the closure of the ‘Balkan route’ and a migrant deal struck between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, according to AFP.

I suspect there are some polls behind this move with an election in 9 months, otherwise the timing is curious. The reasons she states were more applicable a year or two ago than they are now, so why did it take so long for her to decide?