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Short of Time to Form Coalition, German Parties Still Apart on Migration

Short of Time to Form Coalition, German Parties Still Apart on MigrationShort of Time to Form Coalition, German Parties Still Apart on Migration

German parties meet on Wednesday on the hot issue of immigration with sides divided on whether to limit migrant numbers and with only one day left to conclude exploratory talks for forming a new coalition government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the exploratory talks to end on Thursday, when German media expect her to press all sides to strike a compromise before moving to formal negotiations, Reuters reported.

Merkel, 63, is trying to forge an unlikely alliance of her conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the ecologist Greens —a combination untested at national level— to allow her to govern for a fourth term as chancellor.

She needs the new team to work to head off fresh elections that mainstream politicians fear could see the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) make further gains after it surged into parliament for the first time after a September election.

On Wednesday, negotiators will try to narrow their differences on immigration —the issue that cost Merkel support in September’s national election after her 2015 decision to leave German borders open to more than 1 million migrants.

At stake is a plan by Merkel’s conservative bloc to cap the number of people Germany will accept per year on humanitarian grounds at 200,000 —a limit the environmentalist Greens reject.

“There must be a limit,” Volker Bouffier, conservative premier in the western state of Hesse, told ARD television. “We say 200,000 is a reasonable level, if one looks at recent years. But we have not yet achieved our objective.”

  Aggravated Homelessness

Meanwhile, figures released on Tuesday by Germany's federal working group for homeless persons' assistance (BAG) shows that 440,000 of the country's 860,000 homeless people in 2016 were refugees, DW reported.

However, BAG stressed that its data does not show hundreds of thousands of refugees living on the streets, since it also took refugees living in communal housing and shelters into account. Officials said they chose to include these refugees in their latest census as they are also in need of housing.

BAG managing director Thomas Specht stressed that "while immigration has dramatically aggravated the overall situation, but it is by no means the sole cause of the new housing shortage." The main cause, he said, was misguided government housing policy.

A lack of housing has in turn led to a sharp hike in rental prices, with one-to-two room apartments in conurbations seeing the steepest rise. To put the issue into context, Germany has an estimated 17 million single-person households, although last year only 5.2 million one-to-two room apartments were available on the market.

 

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