Germany is facing difficulties in taking in more migrants, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
“Germany, like Italy, is at the limit of its capacity,” Steinmeier said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, pointing out that Germany had received a third of all EU asylum requests in the first half of 2023.
The president acknowledged that both Italy and Germany had “heavy loads to bear” and called for a “fair distribution” of migratory burdens within Europe.
Steinmeier is starting his three-day visit to Italy on Wednesday, where he will meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and visit the southern Italian island of Sicily.
Italian authorities have recently started transferring some migrants to Sicily from the smaller island of Lampedusa, which is being overwhelmed by record arrival numbers.
To limit the number of people coming to Europe, Steinmeier said that “stronger controls and surveillance at our external borders” were needed.
Italy and Germany at odds over migrant intake
The German president stressed his belief that Italy must not be left alone on questions of migration and thanked the country for having shown “so much humanitarian responsibility.”
Italy’s right-wing government has been criticized for passing decrees that curb migrants’ rights and hinder nonprofit rescue missions at sea.
Steinmeier also urged the Italian and German governments to negotiate an agreement to their current dispute over the issue.
Last week, Germany suspended the voluntary intake of migrants from Italy until further notice. The Interior Ministry said Italy was itself refusing to take back people whose asylum process Rome is responsible for under EU law.
German debate over ‘migration cap’ reignited
Several German politicians have recently proposed a cap on the annual number of migrants and asylum seekers.
Conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz has said this number should be set at 200,000 per year. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, has rejected such a cap.
According to official figures, Germany has received around 175,000 asylum requests in 2023 — excluding Ukrainians. Germany has taken in more than 1 million refugees from Ukraine, who go through a special asylum process that the EU introduced in light of Russia’s war.
Meanwhile, the German government is seeking to attract migrants to fill some 2 million jobs. Lawmakers voted in June in favor of reforming the skilled work immigration law.