Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to reduce migration to Germany on the last stretch of state election campaigning on Saturday, one day before millions of Germans were set to vote in three key state polls.

Sunday's elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt are expected to send a direct signal to Merkel, whose decision to keep Germany's borders open to a huge influx of asylum seekers has tested public support for her Christian Democrat Union (CDU).

"We want to reduce the number of refugees significantly," the chancellor told a crowd of 1,400 in the south-western town of Haigerloch.

She took aim at so-called economic migrants, vowing to deport those who have no right to claim asylum more promptly.

Merkel defended her stance on migration with tough talk on integration measures for new arrivals at the rally in the once-traditional CDU stronghold of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

"I think we can say that we expect the refugees to accept these offers. This is an obligation and not a option," Merkel said, referring to a recent push to teach migrants German and introduce them to the German job market.

According to pre-election polls, the CDU and its Social Democrat coalition partner (SPD) could suffer heavy blows in the elections, while the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to take seats in all three regional parliaments.

German Vice Chancellor and SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel said that high voter turnout in upcoming state elections was key to fending off the rising threat of nationalist parties.

About 13 million people are registered to vote in the three states. Just how many of them turn out to the polls is thought by Gabriel to be crucial to Sunday's outcome. He said that mainstream parties' chances are boosted the more voters cast a ballot.

"We have a development all over Europe of nationalist parties, unfortunately also in Germany. Nevertheless, tomorrow we will see that far and away the biggest number of voters will cast a ballot for democratic parties," Gabriel said on the eve of the critical regional elections.

"It also shouldn't be the case that anyone starts to become panicked. There is a clear attitude that we stand for humanity and solidarity, and we're not going to change our position because of some 10 per cent right-wing extremists," he added.

Gabriel, speaking after a meeting of Social Democrats from across Europe in Paris, said the bigger risk was to Merkel's CDU.

Latest news

Stickers reading "Serbian Family Tree" appear in Vukovar

Stickers reading "Serbian Family Tree" with the image of people hanging from a tree and the face of Ante Pavelic, Croatian fascist dictator who led the Ustasha movement and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), appeared at bus stations along Trpinjska Street in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar on Friday.

Turkish ruling party launches campaign for constitutional changes

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Saturday formally launched its campaign for the upcoming referendum on core constitutional changes set to empower the presidency, with a mass rally at a sports arena in Ankara.

Top US general visits Syrian Kurds with focus on al-Raqqa campaign

A top US general visited Syrian Kurdish forces and their allies in northern Syria this week, amid signs the US military was increasing its support for anti-Islamic State forces, despite risks that such a move could anger neighbouring Turkey. 

Germany expects long-term migration growth after revising estimates

Net migration to Germany is expected to be 200,000 annually in the coming years, according to a news report to be published Sunday.

Malaysian police seek to reassure public over VX nerve agent

Malaysian police said on Saturday they would do everything possible to ensure there was no risk to the public from the lethal VX nerve agent used to kill Kim Jong Nam in the country's main international airport.

Cretu says Croatia must accelerate apsorbtion of European funds

The Commissioner also said that for the 2014-2020 period, Croatia would have twice the amount from the previous period at its disposal -- a total of EUR 10.67 billion.

Germany's Schulz accepts only 'small' role in party's poll boost

The main rival to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in this year's elections has said the boost in opinion polls for his Social Democrats (SPD) is not mainly down to him personally.

Coordinated suicide attacks kill over 40 in Syria’s Homs

Forty-two security personnel were killed Saturday in synchronized attacks targeting government security facilities in the Syrian city of Homs, a monitoring group said, with up to six suicide bombers reported to be involved.

Bangladesh PM calls for 'huge fund' to renovate factories

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday urged international clothing brands to help factory owners overhaul their facilities.

EC adopts delegated act on Teran, despite Slovenia's opposition

The European Commission has, despite Slovenia's opposition, adopted a delegated act whereby Croatian winemakers in Istria would be enabled to continue selling their wine made from the Teran grape variety under the name "Croatian Istria - Teran", and the act could be published early next week, the Slovenian news agency STA reported on Friday.

Filipinos mark 1986 mass uprising amid fears of new 'dictatorship'

Thousands of protesters on Saturday marked a 1986 mass uprising that ousted late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, amid fears of a crackdown against political opponents of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Rocket attack leave 2 students dead in eastern Afghanistan

At least two students were killed when a rocket fired by Taliban militants hit a school in Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman province on Saturday morning, local authorities said.