The German government said it will not alter its refugee policy despite seeing gains for the anti-immigration Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party in regional elections on Sunday, 13 March.

When asked by reporters if reduced support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in three states would lead to a rethink of the government's open door immigration policy, spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "The German government will continue to pursue its refugee policy with all its might both at home and abroad."

The AfD has called for Germany to close its borders to immigrants, with its leader Frauke Petry widely criticised when she called for police to shoot those crossing the border illegally.

Merkel said the results were a "sad day" for her party and called for a concerted strategy from the European Union to respond to the immigration crisis. "In the eyes of the people no appropriate and satisfactory solution has yet been found and this had a very great impact on the vote," she said.

The AfD remains a minor force in western Germany, but in the impoverished eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt it became the second biggest party to the CDU on Sunday, taking a quarter of the vote.

In Baden-Württemberg, the CDU lost a third of the vote, reaching an historic low of 27 per cent. The pro-immigration Green Party won most votes, while the AfD won 15 per cent. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats came first, the CDU second and the AfD fourth with 12.5 per cent of the vote.

The results show an increasingly polarised electorate, with pro-immigration parties winning most votes despite a strong showing for the AfD. More than a million refugees and immigrants entered Germany in 2015, after Merkel said asylum would be granted to those fleeing conflict in Syria and other areas of the Middle East.