German crisis talks falter as 13 migrants drown off Greece

Two boats making the hazardous crossing from Turkey capsized in the Aegean Sea off the Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos, leaving at least 13 dead including six children, with many more missing, officials said.

AFP| Updated: Nov 01, 2015, 23:51 PM IST

Berlin: At least 13 migrants seeking to reach Europe drowned off Greece on Sunday as political talks in Germany, the EU's top destination for refugees, failed to produce a consensus on how to handle the influx.

Two boats making the hazardous crossing from Turkey capsized in the Aegean Sea off the Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos, leaving at least 13 dead including six children, with many more missing, officials said.

In Berlin today, Germany's ruling coalition failed to resolve major differences over the country's refugee policy as it grapples with the biggest wave of arrivals since the aftermath of World War II.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the talks would resume on Thursday, after two rounds of weekend negotiations between Merkel and the leaders of her CDU party's two coalition partners ended without a breakthrough.

"Several points... Still need to be resolved including the issue of 'transit zones'," he said, referring to a proposal to create airport-style processing points on Germany's borders to allow would-be refugees who do not fulfil asylum criteria to be moved out quickly.

Merkel called the emergency talks after her Bavarian ally, Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party, threatened her with unspecified consequences if she did not take action to limit the number of newcomers arriving into Germany by today.

The vast majority of the up to one million people expected to arrive in the country this year are crossing the border from Austria into Bavaria.

While most Germans initially backed Merkel's open-doors policy for those fleeing war and persecution, a growing backlash has piled pressure on the chancellor and exposed rifts within her conservative bloc.

The popular Merkel, who will mark a decade in power this month, has led a left-right "grand coalition" of her Christian Union alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) since 2013.

The SPD has rejected the conservatives' transit zones proposal as too restrictive and called instead for each of Germany's 16 states to create registration centres for asylum seekers.

Europe's top economy has taken a range of steps in recent weeks to stem the tide of arrivals.

These include limiting the right to political asylum to exceptional cases for nationals from Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo, and accelerating expulsion procedures for those denied asylum.