Controversial measures to turn back migrants at the German border which almost caused the collapse of Angela Merkel’s government last year have only stopped 11 people from entering the country, it has emerged.
Horst Seehofer threatened to resign as interior minister last summer after Mrs Merkel initially blocked the measures, prompting fears he would withdraw his Christian Social Union party (CSU) from her coalition government and force her out as chancellor.
Mr Seehofer argued at the time that the measures were essential to protect Germany from being overwhelmed with migrants, but according to newly released government figures only 11 people have been turned away at the border since they were introduced.
The explosive confrontation between Mrs Merkel and Mr Seehofer over the issue could yet be seen to have ended both their political careers. Since the stand-off last summer both have stepped down as leaders of their respective parties, and both are expected to retire from politics altogether by the next German election.
Mr Seehofer demanded migrants who have already registered for asylum in other European Union countries be turned back unilaterally at the German border with Austria — at the time the main transit point.
Mrs Merkel overruled the move, arguing that unilateral measures would damage her bid to negotiate a common EU migrant policy.
Under a compromise deal, Mr Seehofer negotiated agreements with Austria, Greece and Spain — three of the main countries affected — to take back migrants turned away at the border.
Now it appears the measures have been strikingly ineffective at limiting migrant numbers. According to the newly released figures, since they were introduced nine migrants have been returned to Greece, two to Spain, and none to Austria.
Under the EU’s Dublin rules, migrants are supposed to apply for asylum in the first member state they enter.
Negotiations with Italy, another major affected country, over a similar agreement appear to be stalled. Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister, wants an EU agreement to redistribute migrants who cross the Mediterranean to Italy.
“So far, there have been no new developments regarding a political agreement with Italy,” the German interior ministry said in a terse statement.