Splits Deepen in Merkel's Coalition Government Over Refugee Crisis

17/03/2016_Angela Merkel
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 17. Merkel faces increasing pressure over immigration. Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The refugee crisis is deepening splits between the parties in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, senior politicians say.

Alexander Dobrindt, the Federal Transport Minister and a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is aligned with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on Friday that a "serious situation" had arisen between the two parties.

The CSU and CDU disagree over immigration policy, with CSU chief Horst Seehofer repeatedly calling for a cap on the number of refugees entering Germany, a suggestion Merkel has vetoed.

Merkel is facing renewed calls to tack to the right on immigration following a strong performance by the new right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in regional elections on Sunday. The AfD scored double-digit results in three state elections and entered all three regional legislatures, capitalizing on discontent over immigration.

"An AfD double-digit election result would have been unthinkable until recently," Dobrindt added.

On Thursday, Katarina Barley, general secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which shares power as a junior partner in Merkel's grand coalition, told Die Welt that Merkel is closer to the SPD than her own party on the issue of refugees.

"In the search for a European solution [to the refugee crisis] Merkel is with us," Barley said. "She is alone in her party, their people are at loggerheads."

Merkel is in Brussels on Friday for a summit where the EU hopes to secure a deal with Turkey that would drastically reduce refugee flows into Europe. Previously known as a cautious politician, Merkel has taken sustained flak since she decided in 2015 to adopt a welcoming rhetoric and relaxed approach towards refugees arriving in Germany.