In what has to be considered an historic about face, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that 100,000 migrants who recently arrived in Germany would be deported.
For more than a year following the massive tide of humanity that flooded into Germany from Africa and the Middle East, Merkel stoutly defended her open border policy as being consistent with western values. A million migrants later, and a huge voter backlash due to overburdened local governments and a sky rocketing crime rate, Merkel has changed her tune.
The beleaguered Chancellor said authorities would significantly step up the rate of forced returns as she battles to arrest an alarming slump in her popularity which has fuelled a surge in support for the far-right.
Mrs Merkel, whose decision to roll out the red carpet to migrants from across Africa and the Middle East spectacularly backfired, has taken an increasingly tough tone on immigration in recent months.
And in her toughest rhetoric yet the German leader told MPs from her party this week: ”The most important thing in the coming months is repatriation, repatriation and once more, repatriation.”
The stance marks an astonishing U-turn from the once pro-refugee Chancellor, who has been widely pilloried by critics at home and abroad for her decision to throw open Germany’s borders to millions of migrants.
Her extraordinary change of heart has been prompted largely by a series of catastrophic local election results for her ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, which was trounced by the populist Alternative fur Deutschland in both her home state and the capital Berlin.
The party’s slumping poll ratings have sparked alarm amongst her allies in both the CDU and its coalition partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), with talk that senior officials would try to oust her.
But instead Mrs Merkel last week announced her intention to stand for a fourth term as leader of Germany, and now she is striking an increasingly anti-immigrant tone as she attempts to restore her battered reputation ahead of next autumn’s election.
Speaking at a conference of conservative MPs in Neumünster yesterday evening the Chancellor revealed that she expects 100,000 migrants to leave Germany this year, of which a third will be forcibly removed.
And employing a tough new form of rhetoric, she warned local regions to deport all migrants whose asylum applications are rejected, using force if necessary.
She warned them: "If state governments refuse to forcibly deport migrants, then of course everyone will say, 'I will not do this voluntarily, because they will not do anything anyway’.
And in a stunning U-turn on her open borders policy, she added: ”It can not be that all the young people from Afghanistan come to Germany.”
Ordinarily, a politician who tried to pull this off would be toast. But Merkel finds herself in a strong position because the alternatives to her are even worse.
Recent polls show her coalition of the CDU/CSU comfortably ahead by 11 points over the Social Democratic Party - the leading left wing party in Germany - by 33-22%. The next strongest party are the Greens who poll at 12% and then the nationalist party AfD at almost 9%. Put simply, the German voter has nowhere else to go now that Merkel has flip flopped on immigration.
There is a chance that the left wing parties will poll enough votes to fashion a majority, but given that the Social Democrats are determined to continue with a liberal immigration policy, it isn't likely.
The bottom line for German elites in all parties is that no one bothered to ask the German taxpayer if they were willing to shoulder the extra burden, endure a higher crime rate, and put up with the draining of local resources. About the only thing preventing a Trump-like surge for the nationalists is that any party to the right of the CDU is portrayed in the press as neo-Nazis - a death sentence for any politician in hyper-sensitive Germany.
Merkel will probably pull off her switcheroo on open borders and win re-election. But she has already accelerated the timetable for a takeover of her country by people with no interest in promoting German or western values and ideas.