Mood Sours in Germany as Majority Say They Now Fear Refugee Numbers

Germany Refugee Crisis
A migrant rests on a bed at an improvised temporary shelter in a sports hall in Hanau, Germany September 18. Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Increasing numbers of Germans are becoming afraid about the growing numbers of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the country, according to a new poll.

Last month, TV footage showed large groups of Germans applauding and clapping as exhausted refugees from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, arrived at Germany's rail stations.

However, in a poll commissioned by public broadcaster ARD that questioned 1,001 people, a slim majority, 51 percent said they were afraid of the large numbers of refugees arriving in the country, compared with 47 percent who said they were unafraid, reports Deutsche Welle. A month earlier, the same pollsters put the number who were afraid at 38 percent. There was also a decline in the number saying they were unconcerned with the refugee numbers, from 59 percent to 47 percent.

The poll, published on Thursday, did find that 58 percent thought the German labour market needs more migrants, while 47 percent said they believe refugees enrich German life, although 39 percent said they worry large numbers of refugees will threaten German prosperity, according to Die Zeit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's personal ratings have fallen in the past month, the pollsters found, dropping nine percentage points to 54 percent.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, announced in August that it expects a record 800,000 applications for asylum this year, four times as many as in 2014. Merkel waived rules for Syrian refugees in late August, allowing them to claim asylum in Germany regardless of which EU state they first arrived in a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the high figures entering the country.

Meanwhile, official rhetoric towards the new arrivals is growing increasingly frosty, as the continent's biggest refugee crisis since World War II continues. "Many places in Germany are already overwhelmed," Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor said in comments published on Friday in Der Spiegel news magazine. "We are approaching the limits of our capabilities at a phenomenal rate."

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Thursday evening during a television interview that around 30 percent of refugees entering the country claiming to be Syrians were in fact from other countries. "We're seeing fake Syrian passports, and there are signs of people claiming to be from Syria who don't speak a word of Arabic," he said.