UPDATE – Germany gets tough on Afghan refugees

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Interior minister argues that majority of Afghan asylum seekers do not need international protection, should go back and help re-build their country

*UPDATES WITH QUOTES FROM AUSTRIAN PM

BERLIN – The German government has taken a tougher approach against refugees coming from Afghanistan, and said majority of them should go back and help re-build their country.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday that Afghans have recently become the second-largest group in asylum applications to Germany, whereas — he claimed — most of them do not need international protection.

“This month Afghanistan occupies the second place in the list of countries where refugees are coming from. This is inacceptable,” de Maiziere said at a press conference in Berlin.

“We are in agreement with the Afghan government, we don’t want this,” he added.

De Maiziere claimed that the majority of Afghan asylum seekers are coming from middle class families, many of them from the capital Kabul.

“Afghan leadership and we share the view that young Afghans and those middle class families should stay there and re-build their country,” de Maiziere said.

His remark came amid growing criticism for the German government’s open-door policy for asylum seekers, as a record 577,000 refugees arrived in Germany between January and September. Majority of them were from Syria and Iraq.

Around a million are expected by the end of the year.

According to Germany’s constitution, and the Geneva Convention on Refugees, the government is obliged to provide shelter to asylum seekers who face persecution or who cannot return to their countries due to civil war.

Interior Minister de Maiziere did not signal a change in government’s open-door policy for asylum seekers who escaped conflicts in Syria and Iraq, but said economic migrants who entered Germany illegally and do not need international protection, should be quickly sent back to their countries.

Germany’s opposition Left Party has sharply criticized the government for taking a tough approach against Afghan asylum seekers and trying to deport them to their country, which is far from being safe.

Left Party lawmaker Ulla Jelpke said that Afghans were still under threat across the country, either by state actors, illegal groups or the international military forces.

“Twelve years long war in Afghanistan has impoverished the country, there is no economy, no labor market. For the young Afghans there is no alternative other than joining the armed groups of the warlords, or fleeing the country,” she said in a written statement.

“If minister de Maizire wants to change something, he should focus on fighting the root causes of the migration, rather than sending people blindly into ruin,” she said.

 

– Austria to cooperate with Germany

 

Austrian Prime Minister Werner Faymann said on Wednesday that Austria will not fence its borders to halt the flow of refugees.

“We will not enclose fence around the country, but we need to take technical measures for better controls,” Faymann told reporters following a Cabinet meeting.

He said that the measures planned on Austrian border would be taken in close cooperation with countries such as Germany and Slovenia.

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