Merkel: Closure of Balkan route did not solve refugee crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has renewed her criticism of strict border controls along the so-called Balkan migration route and pointed to the EU-Turkey deal as the only sustainable solution in controlling the influx.

"If you ask me whether the closure of the Balkan route solved the problem, I will say clearly no," Merkel told weekly newspaper Die Zeit in comments published Wednesday.

"It did in fact mean fewer migrants arrived in Germany in the weeks before the EU-Turkey agreement took effect, but 45,000 arrived in Greece instead," Merkel said.

The chancellor rejected the charge she had backtracked from her political stance since last September, when she opened Germany's borders with a promise of sanctuary to Syrian refugees stranded in Hungary.

Her gesture of goodwill, initially praised by the international community, was later criticized by some for attracting hundreds of thousands of migrants to the country in the last three months of 2015.

She has implemented a series of measures since then, "but in principle my policy has remained constant," the chancellor said.

"I don't believe that we can make this problem disappear again through maximal disregard, through distance and isolation," Merkel said.

"I am a realist, and that is reality," she said.

"If we take our view of humanity seriously, then the claim that human dignity shall be unassailable does not end at the German national border, nor does it end at Europe's frontier," the chancellor said.

Last month, Germany revised down its count for the number of migrants who entered the country in 2015 to 890,000 from 1.1 million, a figure the Interior Ministry said had been inflated by asylum seekers registering in multiple locations.

Last update: Wed, 05/10/2016 - 20:26

More from Europe

European Parliament elects Antonio Tajani as its next president

The European Parliament elected centre-right Antonio Tajani of Italy as its next president over fellow Italian...

Report: US and EU make "considerable progress" on TTIP negotiations

The European Union and the United States have made "considerable progress" in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade...

Mediterranean death toll exceeds 200 since January 1, IOM says

At least 219 people have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in the first weeks of 2017, the...

Estonia, Lithuania sign defence deal with US after Trump bashes NATO

Estonia and Lithuania signed bilateral defence agreements with the US, just days after US-president elect Donald...

German artist fined 700 euros for doing push-ups on church altar

A 38-year-old man was fined 700 euros (750 dollars) by a German court on Tuesday for disrupting the practice of...