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Outrage in Germany over Schäuble's refugee 'avalanche' remark

Germany's Finance Minister Schäuble has caused outrage for calling the influx of migrants in Germany an 'avalanche.' Some politicians have criticized the remarks, while others encouraged further public debate.

Finance Minister

Wolfgang Schäuble's remarks

about the refugee crisis attracted a broad set of reactions throughout Germany's political spectrum. His coalition partners, Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) appeared to be particularly dismayed by the statement.

SPD leader and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he would refrain from "choosing such a comparison" and added that the issue was not the number of refugees coming into Germany, but the speed at which they were coming. Gabriel said Germany had to come up with ways of organizing "orderly immigration" to tackle the problem.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) attacked Schäuble's choice for a metaphor by saying on Twitter that people in peril were not a natural catastrophe.

Left-wing indignation

Bernd Riexinger, head of The Left party,

called Schäuble's remark "erroneous and dangerous in equal parts."

"To keep using metaphors, you could equally say that the millions of refugees were simply the boomerang effect of reckless policies that fuel wars, destroy resources and ruin livelihoods," Riexinger told the AFP news agency. He later told Schäuble via Twitter that the refugee crisis was merely a "rendezvous with your reckless, shitty policies."

Green Party lawmaker Steffi Lemke meanwhile said the situation was growing increasingly ugly at the CDU, which is led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and of which Schäuble is a member. Lemke implied that Schäuble was pinning himself as Merkel's successor in the chancellery, as Merkel's approval ratings have been falling in opinion polls.

President encourages further debate

Without making any direct reference to Schäuble's remarks, German President Joachim Gauck said using pessimistic language around the refugee debate was particularly "dangerous." Gauck said such vocabulary would create an impression of Germany not able to cope with the situation.

Joachim Gauck

Germany's President Joachim Gauck encouraged further "constructive criticism" on the refugee debate to avoid an increase in extremist views

"People are painting a dire picture for the future. And all these dire pictures and negative stereotypes only serve one goal: they disempower us," he said while visiting a refugee center in Bergisch-Gladbach on Thursday.

"There's no need to run away from an unsolved problem while we can still tackle it," he added.

Gauck also said it was important to allow concerned citizens to voice their fears in a bid to avoid a spike in far-right or xenophobic views.

Justified concerns?

Meanwhile, staff members at Germany's Federal Office for Refugees (BAMF) said there was considerable cause for concern about receiving fraudulent asylum applications from Syrians. In a letter to BAMF head Frank-Jürgen Weise, staff said the expedited process to process Syrian asylum applications introduced in the wake of the influx of refugees was open to systematic fraud.

In the letter, which was reported on by German media, staff said there was a "high share of asylum seekers, who used a false identity in order to gain the right to remain in Germany and allow their families to join them in official family reunions."

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had said earlier that roughly 30 percent of all applicants had falsified their identities as Syrian in order to be granted stay in Germany and extend this to their families.

The statement followed an earlier official parliamentary request for information by the Green party asking how many refugees had entered Germany. The Interior Ministry replied it didn't know the exact number of migrants currently in the country.

ss/sms (dpa, AFP, epd, Reuters)

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