Chancellor Angela Merkel has a positive verdict on the influx of migrants to Germany in 2015 and 2016 as she prepares to step down, saying: “We managed it.”
Mrs Merkel became the face of a welcoming approach to migrants as people fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere trekked across the Balkans.
More than one million asylum-seekers entered Germany in 2015-16.
The Chancellor insisted repeatedly that “we will manage” the arrivals, but ran into resistance both at home and among European partners.
Mrs Merkel is expected to leave office in the coming weeks after 16 years in power.
She is preparing to step down with a legacy defined primarily by her handling of a series of crises.
Asked in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle posted late on Sunday which crises she found the most personally challenging, Mrs Merkel identified the coronavirus pandemic and “the large number of refugees who arrived, which I don’t like to describe as a crisis, people are people”.
“Yes, we managed it,” she said.
“’We’ were really many, many people in Germany who joined in, many mayors, many volunteers.”
Mrs Merkel acknowledged that there were problems, citing the 2016 New Year celebrations in Cologne, where hundreds of women complained of being groped and robbed, mostly by groups of migrants.
“We did of course see that not everything went ideally, and there are serious incidents — if I think of the New Year’s night in Cologne, which perhaps has stuck in people’s minds,” Mrs Merkel added.
“But on the whole, we have wonderful examples of successful human development,” she said, pointing to migrants who have finished high school in Germany.
She conceded that the overall picture on migration remains problematic, with the issues that cause people to flee still unresolved and the European Union having failed to establish a single migration and asylum system.