Germany can deal with half a million asylum seekers each year for some years, the country’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said.
“I believe we could certainly deal with something in the order of a half-milllion for a few years,” he said Monday night in an interview with Germany’s public ZDF television.
“I have no doubt about it — maybe even more.”
His comments come as Germany has completely repositioned its policy in the area with Chancellor Angela Merkel leading the charge for a more welcoming attitude to refugees.
This year, Germany is expecting some 800,000 migrants to cross their borders, a four-fold increase over last year.
But rather than raise the drawbridges as other member states have done, the Merkel administration announced it would suspend the application of the Dublin regulations, which stipulate that asylum seekers must be processed in the EU country where they first land.
The topic was previously a sore point between Germany and Italy where the vast majority of migrants came from until last year (this year it has been overtaken by Greece). In return, however, Merkel is demanding a fair distribution of the people landing on European shores.
Mr Gabriel also repeated that other European countries maintained this line in his comment to ZDF. The point is expected to dominate an upcoming emergency session for EU interior ministers on September 14.
Gabriel leads the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) which joined Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) in a coalition government in 2013.