Under fire at home for his program to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, President Obama said Sunday that he is “proud” of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the people of Germany for accepting far more migrants from the war-torn country.
In response to a reporter’s question noting that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has called Mrs. Merkel’s open-door refugee policy “insane,” Mr. Obama defended her at a joint press conference in Hannover, Germany.
“In Europe, she is on the right side of history on this,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m very proud of her for that and I”m very proud of the german people for that.”
The president added: “For her to take on some very tough politics in order to express not just a humanitarian concern but a practical concern that in this globalized world, it is very difficult for us to simply build walls, she is giving voice to the kinds of principles that I think bring people together rather than divide them.”
Germany accepted about a half-million refugees from Syria in 2015 alone, a policy that has caused significant tensions in the country.
Members of Congress, many governors and Republican presidential candidates have criticized Mr. Obama for taking in the refugees, citing security and terrorism concerns.
Mrs. Merkel has advocated the creation of “safe zones” inside Syria to protect refugees and slow the mass migration. Mr. Obama opposes the move, saying it would require a large deployment of ground forces to enforce, although he said a cease-fire that collapsed was aimed at creating safe havens in certain regions of the country.