BERLIN, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said refugees from Middle Eastern conflict zones will go back home after the wars in their respective countries have concluded.
The comments came during a meeting with colleagues in her Christian Democratic Union in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Saturday.
"We need ... to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once [the Islamic State] has been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained," Germany's state-run Deutsche Welle news quoted Merkel as saying.
Merkel and her allies have faced strong criticism from opposition conservatives in recent days over Germany's "open-door" policy, which does not place caps on the number of refugees entering the country. More than 1 million asylum seekers entered Germany last year, and German officials say an average of 2,000 entered the country each day in January.
Tensions have been high following a wave of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve by men of North African and Middle Eastern origin in Cologne in other cities.
Merkel argued on Saturday that 70 percent of refugees from the former Yugoslavia who arrived in Germany in the 1990s returned home once it was deemed safe to do so. She also said a collapse of the European Union's passport-free Schengen zone would have a negative impact on all member states.
Merkel's comments follow threats by Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU's sister party, the Christian Social Union, to take Merkel's government to court in order to stop the flow of incoming refugees.
They also follow calls by Frauke Petry, head of the right-wing, isolationist Alternativ fuer Deutschland party, for police to shoot migrants attempting to enter Germany illegally.