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Von der Leyen: Migrants escaping 'atrocities'

November 16, 2015

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has urged order at the national and EU borders, but warned against suspecting all refugees of terrorism. Migrants are fleeing attacks similar to those in Paris, she said.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge am Bahnhof München Foto Flüchtlingskanzlerin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

German politicians called for tougher border controls in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks, with the French authorities claiming the massacre was organized out of Syria.

At the same time, several high-ranking German officials urged the public not to demonize the wave of refugees arriving to the country from crisis areas in Africa and the Middle East.

"We must not make the mistake of equating refugees with terrorists," Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen told the Monday edition of the German newspaper "Passauer Neue Presse."

"The hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have left their homeland to escape exactly the type of atrocities that we have seen in Paris on Friday," she said.

"However, we need more order at the borders, especially at the outside borders of the EU," the minister from the ruling CDU party added.

Against 'knee-jerk' response

Members of the left-leaning SDP and the German Green party also urged restraint on the migrants issue.

"Knee-jerk responses won't help anybody," the SDP deputy Carola Reimann told the "Welt" newspaper.

"The IS would like nothing better than for us to shut off," said the Green party MP Franziska Brantner to the same newspaper.

The French police found a passport of an alleged Syrian refugee near the body of one of the assailants, but did not exclude the possibility of the document switching hands before the shooting.

"It can not be dismissed entirely that part of the plan was to discredit refugees," Brantner added.

'Paris has changed everything'

Other voices, especially from the Bavarian conservative CSU party, warned that the terrorists might use the migrant crisis to sneak into Europe.

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder told the newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" that when the EU's external borders could not be tightly controlled, Germany must secure its borders. The country should also reserve the right to close the border, if necessary.

"The time of uncontrolled immigration and illegal immigration can not go on. Paris has changed everything," Söder said.

At the same time, Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer distanced himself from Söder's statement, urging the politicians not to "mix up" the refugee issue with fighting terrorism.

"The border controls apply to controlling terrorists, the people who intend to commit crimes and has nothing to do with the general refugee policy," Seehofer said.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed Saturday that Germany has ramped up border checks with France following the attacks. He said checks would take place on road, rail and air connections following a request from France for all of its neighbors to increase surveillance.

While German politicians may argue about the refugee treatment, there is unity on fighting terrorism, according to de Maiziere.

dj/jil (AFP, ARD)

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