There could be many more by the new year. On Wednesday Germany announced that one million refugees had come to settle in the country since the beginning of the year. What began as an act of great humanity, borne in part out of Germany’s lingering guilt for the Second World War, has morphed into Merkel’s political suicide, that plunges her future into grave jeopardy.
Across the economic powerhouse of the continent the social fabric of society is tearing ever thinner. Though bogus scare stories of migrants raping, abusing, burgling and stealing have proved to be unfounded, their presence has served to trigger the biggest rise in far right support since the 1930s.
While the government acknowledged the one million mark had been hit, the truth is that the real figure could be even higher. It takes several weeks to process each individual, meaning that the 200,000 who came into the country in November alone may not be included in the statistics.
Nor are the unregistered, those who wandered through the porous borders of a divided Europe to get to their imagined promised land. Next Monday in the southern city of Karlsruhe “Mummy” – as Merkel is often referred to in the German media – will feel the Arctic blast of her party and allies when she attends the annual conference of her conservative CDU party.
Never mind that Time magazine has just named her its Person of the Year. For the first time in a decade the most powerful woman in the world knows that she has never been in a tighter spot. To backtrack on her open-door policies would be an admission of failure; to repeat that she is right and everyone else is wrong would be seen as arrogance.
Instead she will likely call on countries like Turkey and the Balkans to do more to stem the flow of refugees to give her and fellow Germans muchneeded breathing space. It is ironic, say critics, that Karlsruhe should have been chosen as the venue for the party shindig: the city is also home to Germany’s chief prosecutor who is currently considering a petition signed by hundreds of people asking him to bring criminal charges of treason against her.
They cite the chancellor’s decision to open the borders of the nation to all comers in September, since when they claim “an unhindered fl ow of refugees have poured into Germany”. And since, under German law, anyone who attempts to affect change to the German republic or “damage the constitutional order by force or threat of force” is guilty of high treason, they want to see her in the dock.
She knows the clock is against her as now in some towns refugees outnumber locals – in Sumte, in the former east, it is by seven to one – and the fuel that this is giving to the ultra-right is alarming. Just four people have been convicted of attacks against 637 asylum centres in Germany in the past two years.
Of those attacks, 222 are classified as violent by the government. Since January last year 104 people have been injured in attacks, or smoke inhalation from fi res started at their temporary accommodation. Police have ended 11 per cent of their investigations entirely and admitted they were able to identify suspected