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Immigration

German Development Minister Gerd Müller calls for debate on anti-Islam movement

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called for a fair discussion on the protests by anti-Islam movement PEGIDA. Müller said that Germany needed to address the fears of thousands of its citizens.

Development Minister Gerd Müller said in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that politicians needed to discuss the fears of Germany's citizens following the influx of refugees into the country.

"Despite best efforts," there were "millions of poor families in Germany," Müller, a politician with the Christian Social Union (CSU), said on Friday. He added that refugees were being seen as a threat, especially in big cities.

"People are suffering, they feel they have been pushed to the margins and are drawing attention to themselves, because they do not see themselves represented completely," Müller told the newspaper, adding that German leaders had to focus on these issues.

More PEGIDA protests

The PEGIDA movement, which loosely translates to Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, has been regularly organizing rallies in several German cities since October.

Syrien Konferenz in Berlin 18.12.2014

Müller said Germany needed to address the fears of thousands of its citizens

The movement's leaders are planning further rallies for Monday, in Cologne and other cities. Administrators of the Cologne Cathedral, one of Germany's most popular destinations, have decided to switch off exterior lighting during the demonstration.

Politicians have welcomed the decision, with Member of the Bundestag, Norbert Röttgen, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party, saying he was "happy about this clear sign of the church's limits" and that this kind of cheap propaganda against people, especially those who needed help, was "unchristian."

On Thursday, Chancellor Merkel stirred debate across Germany with her criticism of the PEGIDA movement, describing its leaders as driven by "hate" and calling the movement one which targeted people of different skin color.

Alexander Gauland, leader of the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, attacked the chancellor's comments, saying she was "condescending towards people she did not know."

Leftist party Die Linke and the Greens have said the CSU, part of the ruling coalition, are responsible for boosting the PEGIDA's presence. The CSU, in power in the southern state of Bavaria, has also been held responsible for creating resentment against immigrants.

More than 200,000 applications for asylum were submitted for approval in Germany last year, making it the country with the largest number of asylum appeals in the world.

mg/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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