Bild released figures Wednesday showing 431,376 Syrians applied for asylum in Germany in 2015 and 2016. More than half of them, 267,500, are entitled to family reunification under German law. The report estimates the refugee crisis cost Germany $23 billion in 2016 alone.
Populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) called it “absolute madness” to spend billions of dollars on family reunification at the expense of German taxpayers.
“Billions and billions of tax money are being swallowed and the social state is being steered toward breakdown while our eyes are wide open,” senior AfD member Alexander Gauland told Reuters.
If validated, the report could be bad news to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid for a fourth term in office. Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union have taken a tougher stance on immigration to win back trust from voters.
Polls have Merkel neck-and-neck with the center-left Social Democrats. AfD is at its lowest level of support since 2015 with just 7 percent. The general election is scheduled for Sept. 24.