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Merkel Bars German States Taking Refugees, Migrants from Greece

Αssociated Press

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, right, arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, August 12, 2020. (Tobias Schwarz/Pool Photo via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, which took in some 1.3 million refugees and migrants before closing the door on them, is prohibiting several of the country's 16 states from accepting more from Greece.

The states have offered to help relieve overcrowding in detention centers and camps on five Greek islands holding more than 34,000 people, virtually all wanting asylum after the European Union shut its borders to them.

The states of Berlin and Thuringia want to fly in several hundred refugees and migrants from Greece and Germany's state broadcaster Deutsche Welle said they are considering going to court to prevent Merkel from barring them.

Other states, including the most populous, North Rhine-Westphalia, have also said they would be prepared to take in refugees from the camps, the news site also added.

Berlin's Interior Minister Andreas Geisel called for a conference where state interior ministers can speak to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to resolve the issue.

"We cannot simply shrug our shoulders and accept a 'No' from Horst Seehofer to our readiness to help people in desperate circumstances," he said, according to the report.

The emphasis was on the notorious and overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos that is holding more than 18,000 people in a facility designed for one-sixth that number and human rights groups calling conditions there inhumane.

Several other EU countries have also reneged on pledges to help take in some of the masses while the EU's current and former migration chiefs, both from Greece's ruling New Democracy, have done almost nothing to help.

North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier Armin Laschet, from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) visited Moria, at first pulling back over security worries for him as it was thought he was  Germany's Chancellor but the next day getting a first-hand look inside.

Laschet, who said he covets being Germany's leader, said he said a “cry of the desperate” from those stuck inside two years or more waiting for sanctuary applications to be processed.

North Rhine-Westphalia, has offered to accept several hundred particularly vulnerable people from the Greek camps, but only as part of a program coordinated by the federal government together with other EU countries.

Berlin's and Thuringia's offers to take in refugees unilaterally got them into trouble with Seehofer, who once called immigration the "mother of all problems" for Germany to deal with.

There is politics at play too between rival parties, Berlin and Thuringia  governed by left-wing coalitions, and Seehofer said the states can make all the plans they want but the final call is his.

"No country in the world can manage migration alone," said Seehofer without mentioning that's what the EU wants Greece to do. "This makes it all the more important that we finally make visible progress in European asylum policy. We are on the right track, and I am not prepared to jeopardize that now,” he said.

Ulrich Karpenstein, a lawyer at the Redeker, Sellner and Dahs law firm who analyzed consent for humanitarian programs told the site she does not agree with his assessment.

"You could just as easily say we need a UN solution, and as long as there's no UN solution you can't get people out of a humanitarian emergency," he told DW. "It's a purely political argument, but not a legal one,” he also added.