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Why Germany is imposing new restrictions on asylum seekers

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Michael Sohn/AP

(Read caption) German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. Merkel has recently announced a bill package that will take a harder stance on refugees.

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Germany is putting up a stop sign for some refugees. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a new draft law that would tighten rules for asylum seekers in Germany. The new set of rules and regulations is known as the “Asylum Package II” and is aimed at reducing the flow of incoming refugees. 

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If passed, the new measures will speed up the asylum procedure, further regulations, streamline deportation, and designate some north African countries – Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria – as safe, which means citizens from those countries will not be accepted as refugees, according to CNN. The bill would also delay refugees given "temporary" status from bringing their families to Germany for two years.

The proposed rules represent a shift for Chancellor Merkel, who has welcomed refugees to Germany, and are likely caused by two key factors: a severe drop in public approval for Merkel and toughening rules throughout Europe.

“This decision helps us to achieve our objective: to reduce the number of refugees and asylum-seekers noticeably,” Peter Tauber, general secretary of Germany’s center-right Christian Democrat party, told The Telegraph.

The refugee crisis has been a divisive issue in Germany since last summer, but attacks in Cologne on New Year's Eve have caused tensions to grow higher. Among other casualties, Chancellor Merkel’s once unassailable approval rating has plummeted.

A new Insa poll created for Focus magazine shows 40 percent of Germans want Merkel to resign over her handling of the refugee crisis, according to Reuters. The poll, taken between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25, had a sample size of over 2,000 Germans, 45.2 percent of whom said Merkel should not quit.

An ARD television poll shows that Merkel’s popularity had already started to suffer in September over the refugee crisis, hitting a then-low of 63 percent, down four points.

The Asylum Package II can be seen as an attempt to recover some approval rating and defuse a brewing point of contention among Merkel’s coalition government, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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"We want this coalition, and for this coalition to succeed," Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, who runs the Christian Social Union, a partner political party in Merkel’s coalition government. "Yesterday was a good day. Decisions were made that were in part overdue and that will bring us a good ways forward."

Germany’s policy shift is the latest in a growing number of European countries taking a harder stance on asylum seekers.

Denmark passed a controversial bill in January to seize valuables worth more than $1,400 from asylum seekers. The bill is officially designed to impose the current law for native Danes – who must sell asserts worth more than a certain amount to claim benefits – on incoming refugees. However, as Michael Holtz of The Christian Science Monitor writes, “the law’s critics – and many of its most hard-line supporters – say it has more to do with deterring asylum seekers from entering the country."

Sweden also announced in January a plan to deport up to 80,000 migrants that did not pass the application process to be granted asylum. The plan was matched a day later by Finland, who announced a similar plan to deport around 20,000 migrants of the 32,000 they took last year, according to Radio Free Europe.