Angela Merkel attacked for 'we can do this' motto with 300,000 refugees set to enter Germany in 2016

'It's inconceivable for Germany to take in a million people every year,' says Vice Chancellor

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The Independent Online

Germany's vice-chancellor has criticised Angela Merkel’s “We can do this” motto as it emerged that up to 300,000 refugees are expected to arrive in Germany during 2016.

Sigmar Gabriel said the Chancellor had “underestimated” the challenge of integrating record numbers of asylum seekers into the country following the peak of the refugee crisis last year.

Some German officials have put the total number of arrivals from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa at more than one million during 2015.

Ms Merkel has repeated the slogan "Wir schaffen das,” meaning “We can do this” in relation to the large influx of refugees to the country.

"I, we always said that it's inconceivable for Germany to take in a million people every year," Mr Gabriel told German broadcaster ZDF.

Mr Gabriel’s comments emerged after the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Frank-Juergen Weise, said Germany would accept several hundred thousand into the country during 2016.

"We're preparing for 250,000 to 300,000 refugees this year," he told the tabloid Bild am Sonntag.

Mr Weise disputed the claim that Germany had accommodated more than one million new arrivals, saying duplicate registrations and refugees moving on to different countries meant the true figure was likely to be below the million mark.

The migration minister added that if the 300,000 threshold was exceeded in 2016, his office may struggle, but indicated he thought it unlikely.

Ms Merkel’s migration policy also received criticism from within the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian counterparts to Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU).

Markus Soeder, a senior member of the party, told Der Spiegel magazine: “Even with the best will in the world, we won't manage to integrate so many people from totally different cultures."

He said the Germany should send hundreds of thousands of refugees back over the next few years instead of allowing their families into the country.

More than than 390,000 people applied for asylum in the first six months of 2016, according to the German interior ministry, yet it is not yet clear how many of these arrived in the country last year.

A recent poll by Bild am Sonntag found that half of Germans would oppose a fourth term for Ms Merkel, should she run again in 2017.

Another survey found that half of Germans thought Ms Merkel’s immigration policy was bad.

Mr Weise said the country would attempt to find employment for all its new arrivals, but added the job of fully integrating the refugees “would take a long time and cost a lot”.

Support for anti-immigration groups has soared in Germany and in 2015 the number of people participating in far-right demonstrations trebled.

On Saturday, a far-right group unfurled a banner on top of the Brandenburg gate, calling for “secure borders” for Germany and what it called the “Islamisation” of the country.

Additional reporting by Reuters