German coalition optimistic on refugees deal as influx hits record

Reuters

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Relatives carry a coffin holding the body of murdered 4-year-old refugee boy Mohamed Januzi, at a Muslim cemetery in Gatow outside Berlin, Germany, November 5, 2015. Mohamed disappeared on October 1 while waiting outside Berlin's central registration office for migrants with his mother and two siblings. Photo: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch Relatives carry a coffin holding the body of murdered 4-year-old refugee boy Mohamed Januzi, at a Muslim cemetery in Gatow outside Berlin, Germany, November 5, 2015. Mohamed disappeared on October 1 while waiting outside Berlin's central registration office for migrants with his mother and two siblings. Photo: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

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Senior figures in Germany's ruling coalition parties sounded optimistic on Thursday about the prospects of reaching agreement on how to handle the influx of refugees pouring into the country.
The positive comments before meetings between coalition leaders came as official figures showed the number of new arrivals this year had hit almost 800,000 by the end of October - the total the government had been expecting for all 2015.
The influx has opened divisions in the coalition, with the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) demanding tougher action that many in the third ruling party, the Social Democrats (SPD), oppose.
Merkel failed to fully resolve the differences at a Sunday meeting but party officials held out hope of an agreement after a series of meetings scheduled to be held later on Thursday.
"The likelihood of an agreement is large, as we are aware that people expect politicians not to argue, but to come to solutions," Ralf Stegner, deputy chairman of the SPD, told radio station hr-iNFO.
Daily newspaper Bild said SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel expected a deal on Thursday. The coalition would present steps to speed up the deportation of people without asylum rights, better controls on new arrivals, and transit zones, it said.
"On all this, the SPD, CDU and CSU will definitely make joint proposals," Gabriel told Bild. "People rightly expect that of us."
Bavaria is bearing the brunt of the refugee arrivals and its Christian Social Union (CSU) has pressed the federal government hard to stem the tide of people arriving -- mostly from war- and poverty-stricken areas of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Much of the debate in the coalition government revolves around how to set up centers to process asylum seekers and what to call them.
In a country where the idea of holding people in large facilities evokes memories of the Nazi era, the debate over "transit zones" has strained the coalition as it struggles to reassure a skeptical public it has a grip on the migrant crisis.
Volker Kauder, leader of Merkel's conservatives in parliament, said the main thing was to filter out people deemed to have no solid claim to asylum - those who come from countries deemed as safe. That way, Germany wants to focus on war refugees from states such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Whether we call them transit zones or entry zones it not so important for me, but it is the substance that matters," Kauder told n-tv television. "I am very sure we will get a result."
The Interior Ministry said 181,000 migrants arrived in Germany in October alone, a record for a single month.
In the year to the end of October, the number of new arrivals hit 758,000, meaning the government's expectation for 800,000 in the full year is very likely to be surpassed.

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