New migrant policy shouldn’t turn EU into fortress: Merkel

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Berlin, July 5 (IANS) German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday warned that increased security on the EU’s border as part of a tougher migrant policy being adopted by bloc leaders should focus on thwarting human trafficking rather than convert the continent into a fortress.

Merkel, leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU), was speaking at a press conference here alongside Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is known for his anti-immigration policies.

“The soul of Europe is its humanity… If we want to preserve it, Europe cannot simply detach itself from distress and suffering,” she said.

While it was the correct decision to take on trafficking networks, the German conservative leader said that fundamental European values should not be lost in the process, Efe news reported.

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The bloc could not ignore the plight of immigrants seeking safety in Europe, she added.

Orbán, in turn, said that if Hungary did not have hundreds of men posted along its frontier to block migrant flow, then 4,000-5,000 people would be arriving in Germany every day.

Merkel said that the perspective on the migration between Hungary and Germany was very different. Reacting to it, Orban said: “The Chancellor and I see the world differently, but we strive for cooperation and I’m ready to work with her.”

Orban said that his country built a fence on its southern borders to regain control over its territory, the move protecting not only Hungary but also Germany by not allowing refugees to enter Hungary.

“We feel hurt that we are accused by Germany of lack of solidarity,” said Orban, adding that “we protect our border with 8,000 armed soldiers for 24 hours… That clearly means also a help for Germany, because refugees who are rejected, do not come to Germany.”

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Merkel-led CDU and the Christian Social Union on Monday night reached a compromise on asylum policy, agreeing to build refugee transit centres along Germany-Austria borders and turn back asylum seekers already registered in other EU countries, in accordance with administrative agreements between two countries.

In an interview with German newspaper das Bild, Orban said Hungary was open for talks with Germany if the latter and Austria reach a migration agreement.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday went to Vienna to discuss a possible agreement that Austria would be willing to accept certain refugees from the planned transit centres.

However, according to the daily, Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said that his country did not want to “be punished for the mistakes of German policy”.

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