• Tension with states holds up funding, deportation measures
  • Merkel bloc support at more than five-year low, poll says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy hit a roadblock as the opposition Green Party stalled legislation to ease the deportation of North African asylum seekers and state governments demanded more federal funding to help migrants who stay.

Merkel said she and Germany’s 16 state leaders failed to resolve a clash over sharing the cost of refugee integration at a meeting in Berlin late Thursday. At the same time, Green delegates in the upper house of parliament, or Bundesrat, delayed a measure designating Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as “safe countries of origin” where asylum seekers won’t face persecution if sent back.

“We can offer partial results, but not a full agreement,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin after talks with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states on the financing dispute.

The divisions over Merkel’s response to Germany’s biggest refugee influx since World War II underscore the political obstacles she faces in trying to win back public support, even though the influx of migrants has slowed. Public anxiety over migration persists after about 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year.

Support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc slid 1 percentage point to 31 percent, the lowest level since October 2010, and down from 40 percent a year ago, according to a monthly Infratest survey published Friday by broadcaster ARD. The junior-partner Social Democrats were steady at 21 percent, while the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany declined one point to 14 percent.

The safe-origin bill, passed by Merkel’s coalition in the lower house of parliament in May, is a response to outrage over New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne involving migrants. The Greens, which have a presence in 10 German state governments, wielded their blocking power in the Bundesrat, saying the legislation ignored civil rights violations in the three North African countries.

“Further talks will take place in the coming days and the law will be deliberated in the Bundesrat at a later date,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters Friday.

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