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Angela Merkel heads to Turkey over migrant crisis

COLOGNE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due in Istanbul Sunday to press Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, a day after a German mayoral candidate was seriously wounded in a “racist” stabbing.

Her meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has heaped scorn on Europe’s efforts to deal with the crisis, comes with her government’s migrant policies fuelling growing tensions in Germany, triggering a backlash from her conservative allies and spawning a growing number of increasingly vocal far-right protests.

She has pushed for a fairer distribution of people across the European Union, but the crisis has sorely tested ties between member states and put unprecedented strain on the right to free movement that is at the core of the 28-nation bloc’s values.

On Saturday, Merkel expressed “shock” over the attack in the western city of Cologne which left mayoral hopeful Henriette Reker with serious neck wounds.

Reker, an independent close to Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats who is active in helping refugees, was stabbed while at a party information stand in the city.

Four other people were also injured, one of them seriously, with regional police chief Wolfgang Albers saying it was a “political act”.

The attacker was arrested at the scene and told police he had “a racist motivation for committing this act”, Cologne police official Norbert Wagner said at a news conference.

More than 630,000 people fleeing war and misery in the Middle East and Africa have landed on Europe’s shores this year.

Most of the refugees and migrants are trying to get to Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, which has said it expects up to one million asylum seekers this year after saying it would open its doors to Syrian refugees.

As a result of the influx, German authorities have warned in recent weeks of a rise in unrest, with the country’s domestic spy chief saying last month, “what we’re seeing in connection with the refugee crisis is a mobilisation on the street of right-wing extremists, but also of some left-wing extremists”.

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