Members of Germany's Greens party have rejected a proposal to set up EU asylum centers in North Africa. Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) had supported the British idea after a recent controversy over African refugees.
Refugees should still be able to come to Europe, the Greens say
Greens leaders, the junior partners in Germany's governing coalition with Social Democrats, said the establishment of an asylum center outside the union would violate Europe's humanitarian principles.
"People in need will have to be able to reach Europe in the future as well," said Angelika Beer (photo), Greens co-chairwoman, adding that EU refugee funds should be increased to help fight the problem at its roots instead.
Following a weeks-long controversy surrounding a German aid ship that had picked up 37 African refugees in the Mediterranean before finally getting permission from Italy to dock in a Sicilian harbor, Schily had changed his position on the asylum center proposal. He now supports plans to establish such a center, where Africans could apply for asylum without entering the EU first.
Schily's spokesman said that Africa's problems had to be solved in Africa and it should not be made easier for refugees to come to Europe as this would encourage millions to take that step.
Volker Beck, parliamentary manager for the Greens, countered by saying such statements reminded him of conservative slogans such as "the boat is full."
Conservative politicians meanwhile were split on Schily's suggestion. While Bavarian Interior Minister Gunther Beckstein of the Christian Social Union (CSU) called it a "sensible idea," Wolfang Bosbach, a legal expert for the Christian Democrats, said the proposal was too vague. Bosbach added that he didn't see how the plan should become reality and asked Schily to clarify whether he intended to establish a European asylum policy. He also asked the interior minister whether EU states would set up offices at such a center and whether asylum seekers would stay there for the duration of their application.