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Germany

Illegals with German Visas said in Portugal

Ten thousand illegal immigrants who entered Germany on tourist visas went on to work on the building sites of stadiums for the Euro 2004 football championships, the German opposition claimed on Thursday. Eckart von Klaeden, a leading member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that a policy of relaxing the criteria for issuing German visas has led to around 100,000 immigrants coming to Germany between 2000 and 2003. It is alleged that the relaxed rules were abused by 'human traffickers' who brought eastern Europeans, especially Ukrainians, into Germany on tourist visas when in fact most were intending to work in the country or elsewhere in western Europe. "The visa policy and criminal activity went hand in hand," Von Klaeden told a meeting of foreign journalists in the German capital. He said documents seen by the committee investigating the scandal had revealed that many immigrants found their way to Portugal where stadiums were being constructed or renovated for last year's European football championships. He also alleged that Germany's embassy in China had issued a large number of visas in December 2004, which he said confirmed that the policy was still being carried out despite the government's insistence that it closed the loophole in 2003. Beleaguered German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will have a chance to explain his role in the scandal when he appears before a parliamentary investigation on April 25. Fischer's evidence will come less than a month before a key state election on May 22 in Germany's most heavily populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He is a leading member of the Greens, the junior partners of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) in the ruling coalition. After a string of setbacks in state elections, defeat for the SPD in one of its traditional strongholds would leave the government in tatters with a general election looming in September 2006. (AFP)