KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) — Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday she wanted to "drastically decrease" the number of refugees coming to Germany, signaling a retreat from her open-door policy on the eve of a congress of her conservative party. Merkel had, until now, resisted pressure from within her Christian Democratic Union to put a cap on the numbers entering Germany, which are expected to top 1 million this year.
"At the same time we took on board the concerns of the people, who are worried about the future, and this means we want to reduce, we want to drastically decrease the number of people coming to us," Merkel told broadcaster ARD.
Merkel, whose formerly high popularity has fallen over her handling of the refugee crisis, said the word "limit" did not feature in the CDU's main resolution, which will be debated at the two-day party congress starting on Monday in the southern city of Karlsruhe.
The chancellor added there was broad support in the CDU for her strategy to reduce the influx. Her policy includes working with Turkey to fight human traffickers, improving the situation at Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and strengthening control of the European Union's outer borders.
Merkel's conservative critics want her to get the number of arrivals down before three state elections in March and say her hopes of running for a fourth term in 2017 could be in danger.
Her strategy also includes finding a solution to the migration crisis on the EU level, where she is meeting resistance from member states opposed to a quota system to distribute refugees. Her critics say her decision in late August to let Syrian asylum seekers remain in Germany regardless which EU country they had first entered had accelerated the influx of migrants.