Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Berlin, Merkel underlined Europe’s humanitarian responsibility and common values that protect freedom of religion.
“In Europe, we have certain humanitarian obligations towards refugees who fled from civil war in Syria and those who fled from IS [Daesh] in Iraq,” Merkel said, in response to a question by a Malaysian journalist.
“We are not making any difference here between people of Christian faith and people of Muslim faith, and we are not saying that one group will be protected by us and others not. I think that this must be reflected in the policy of each and every EU member state. This is my opinion, has always been my opinion, and continues to be my opinion,” she stressed.
Right-wing populist governments in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have raised objections to the relocation of Muslim refugees from Italy, Greece or Turkey, and proposed instead taking in a limited number of Christian refugees.
Despite an agreement reached by the EU Council last year to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, EU member states have so far relocated only 5,000 people.
Merkel also expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria, and sharply criticized the regime’s air strikes targeting civilians.
“What is happening in Aleppo is a brutal violence against the people, against the civilian population to an extent that is totally unacceptable,” she said.
Merkel expressed regret for the failure to stop fighting, but said it was worth every effort to continue trying to achieve a ceasefire deal which actually works.