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Paris Attacks Put Pressure On Germany To Tighten Its Refugee Policy


There's evidence that one of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe posing as a refugee. In Germany, that's heightened worries about Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door asylum policy. Esme Nicholson reports.

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Outside the French Embassy in Berlin, the mood is somber. Seventy-year-old Giesela Mueller is one of many gathered here to pay her respects to the city after which this square, Pariser Platz, is named.

GIESELA MUELLER: (Crying) I lived in Paris for a year a long time ago, and I think it's all so terrible.

NICHOLSON: Among the flowers and candles, there are notes of solidarity and not only for the victims in Paris. One note reads, we stand by Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Iraq and Syria, and we stand by the refugees who came here to escape this terror. But Giesela Mueller is frightened, and she's beginning to question her government's liberal refugee policy.

MUELLER: It was a great mistake to let so many people in with no registration, you know? Then I'm sure that quite a few - or many, I don't know - from the IS came with them, you know?

NICHOLSON: She is not alone. Less than 12 hours after Friday's horrific attacks in the French capital, Bavaria's finance minister, Markus Soeder, tweeted, Paris changes everything. Soeder represents the Christian Social Union, Merkel's sister party. Its leader, Horst Seehofer, was quick to reprimand Soeder for criticizing the chancellor's policy. Yet the CSU is calling again for stricter border controls and a refugee quota starting next year, measures the chancellor still rejects. Merkel's defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is one of many politicians to caution against conflating the refugee crisis with the issue of terror.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN: (Speaking German).

NICHOLSON: She says, "we will not make refugees scapegoats for the so-called Islamic State's attacks because that's exactly what ISIS wants." The German government is eager to present a united front in the wake of the attacks. Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has also warned again, quote, "seeing every refugee as a terrorist."

But back in front of the French Embassy, Giesela Mueller admits that her confidence in the chancellor is waning.

MUELLER: So I'm not really with Merkel, yeah. She always says, we make it; we make it; everything is fine. But I think it's not fine.

NICHOLSON: Turning to go, Mueller says she feels Germany will be next. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.