George, Amal Clooney back Merkel on refugee crisis

George, Amal Clooney back Merkel on refugee crisis
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives actor George Clooney and his wife Amal in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 12, 2016. Reuters photo

Berlin - Merkel has attempted to lead a generous and tolerant reaction to the tide of migrants entering Europe from North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.



By AFP

Published: Sat 13 Feb 2016, 11:58 AM

Last updated: Sat 13 Feb 2016, 4:47 PM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday hosted George Clooney for talks on Europe’s refugee influx, after the Hollywood idol offered to lend star power to help with the crisis.
The meeting lent Merkel a bit of much-needed support as her liberal asylum policy comes under attack at home and abroad.
“We spoke about the involvement of George Clooney, his wife (Amal) and David Miliband” in the International Rescue Committee, said Merkel when asked about the encounter at a press conference following talks with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
“We spoke about the possibilities for an NGO and a government to work together on the causes that force people to flee their countries, and also how to encourage people to get involved in the cause,” she said, describing the discussions as “very good”.
Clooney told public television ZDF that “what we were there to do is to talk about how best we can help”.
“I understand first and foremost how difficult the task is and Chancellor Merkel talks about the incredible work that all these volunteers have been doing — it’s not just the government but what all the people in Germany have been doing,” said the actor.
Britain’s former foreign minister Miliband is now head of the IRC, while Clooney’s wife Amal is a Lebanese-born human rights lawyer.
The Clooneys were in the German capital to attend the Berlin film festival, which this year also puts Europe’s refugee influx in the spotlight.
The actor had told reporters on Thursday that he would meet Merkel and, separately, a group of asylum seekers, “to talk about and ask what messages and what things we can do... to help.”
Germany took in around 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone, but opposition is growing within the country against Merkel’s liberal policy.
An opinion poll published late January showed that nearly 40 percent of German voters want Merkel to quit over her asylum policy.
Outside Germany, Merkel has also come under fire.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls joined a growing chorus of critics Friday with a warning her policy was “unsustainable in the long term”, while his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev had stronger words, calling it “quite simply stupid”.
The chancellor has pledged to “tangibly” reduce the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving this year with a range of measures in Germany, on the European level and with the help of international partners such as Turkey.
The daily Berliner Zeitung warned that Merkel’s meeting with Clooney “could backfire” on her.
“As the chancellor is meeting an actor at a time when there is falling confidence on her migration policies, she could be reproached for preferring to bask in the glow of Hollywood rather than solving the country’s urgent problems,” it said.
After all, “pressing issues such as overcrowded refugee reception centres or massive backlogs in asylum applications cannot be solved by Clooney,” it warned.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives actor George Clooney and his wife Amal in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 12, 2016. Reuters photo
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives actor George Clooney and his wife Amal in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 12, 2016. Reuters photo

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