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But the open-door policy has come under intense criticism following a string of horrific ISIS attacks in the country.
Now her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, has stressed Merkel is adopting a more hand-line stance on failed asylum seekers.
He said: "We sent home 80,000 last year whose asylum applications were rejected. That's a record – and the number will rise again further.
"There were some 700,000 asylum applications in 2016 and nearly 300,000 were rejected.
"We'll be sending these people home quickly because if we don't it'll damage our credibility as a state based on the rule of law."