People have flocked into the streets of the German capital, Berlin, to call on Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down over her so-called open-door policy towards refugees. Some 3,000 right-wing protesters, including neo-Nazis and supporters of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement, marched through central Berlin to slam Merkel’s policies. Carrying placards reading, “We are the people!” and “Merkel must go,” the protesters chanted slogans against the chancellor’s handling of the refugee crisis.
The event, organized by far-right group “We for Berlin & We for Germany,” called for Merkel’s resignation and stricter border controls across the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, hundreds of activists, predominately members of the anti-fascist alliance “Berlin Nazifrei” held a counter-protest nearby. Holding banners reading, “Asylum is a right, racism isn’t” and “Against Nazis,” the demonstrators urged an end to anti-refugee marches as well as hostile attacks against asylum seekers. There was heavy police presence at both demonstrations to prevent any possible clashes. The marches came before “Super Sunday” elections in three German states, which are considered as a test of support for Merkel’s refugee policy.
The chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union is expected to lose support while the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party is set to make gains. Germany, one of the most popular destinations for refugees, registered about 1.1 million refugees between January and December 2015. The country is expecting 2.5 million more to arrive over the next five years. Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. More than 141,000 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 440 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization of Migration (IOM).