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German coalition ends spat over family reunions for refugee children

Germany's coalition government has ended an internal row over new asylum rules, allowing for some unaccompanied refugee kids to be reunited with their families. The measures are now ready for debate in parliament.

The parents of some

unaccompanied refugee children

may be allowed to reunite with their children, according to Germany's ruling coalition which reached a compromise on Thursday. The agreement brings an end to a spat that has held up asylum rule reforms in Germany.

"We have found a reasonable solution without changing coalition's decisions," announced Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday."We will allow for humanitarian decisions for vulnerable refugee minors."

Maas, along with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, said that the parents of underage asylum seekers can be reunited with their children in particular cases of hardship. De Maiziere also emphasized that the compromise does not change the wording of the proposed asylum rules, which will now pass to parliament for debate.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, left, and Justice Minister Heiko Maas brief the media

De Maiziere (L) and Maas (R) said the compromise would not change the proposed asylum legislation

The proposed legislative packet was originally

agreed upon weeks ago

by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and their center-left Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partner.

Renewed tensions erupted last weekend, however, after SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel had said he was

unaware of the family reunification ban

for unaccompanied refugee minors.

Under the proposed asylum legislation, there would be a two-year ban on family reunions for asylum seekers with "subsidiary protection." In an earlier draft of the proposed legislation, unaccompanied minors had been excluded from this group; however, the clause was not part of the bill as agreed upon by cabinet ministers.

The new rules also include redefining so-called "safe countries of origin" and reducing financial support for asylum seekers.

Merkel's government has been under pressure

to pass the string of measures in order to stem the tide of refugee arrivals. Around 1.1 million people applied for asylum in Germany last year.

rs/jil (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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