Germany's Employment Agency wants to widen a program made to attract highly skilled immigrants to refugees already in the country. But the news has been overshadowed by a weekend of suspected racially motivated attacks.
Germany's "Blue Card" system, which was introduced in August 2012, has so far only been available to academic immigrants from outside the European Union. But the Federal Employment Agency has announced it would like to open up the scheme to highly qualified refugees.
Employment Agency chair Raimund Becker said there needed to be a process to get highly qualified potential workers, such as doctors and engineers, out of refugee centers and into jobs where they are needed in Germany.
"According to German law, they would have to return to their home countries to apply for a special visa," he told the "Rheinische Post." "This is absurd when they have fled war and persecution. "
Requirements for a "Blue Card" currently include a fixed work contract, completed training and a minimum salary of 48,400 euros ($52,400). Since the introduction of the project three year ago, some 20,000 people have benefited from the opportunity.
Stephan Mayer, the domestic affairs expert for Christian conservative parties in parliament, said he was open to discussing changes to those requirements.
"The bureaucratic hurdles facing these professionals should be as low as possible," Mayer said, adding that Germany needed highly qualified workers.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also stated on Saturday that Germany is in a position to cope with the refugees entering the country.
Suspected arson at refugee homes
News of plans to expand the "Blue Card" scheme was tainted over the weekend, however, by reports of suspected racially motivated attacks against a number of refugee homes.
At a village festival close to the northern town of Rostock on Saturday, seven asylum seekers were reportedly threatened and assaulted by five people who are believed to have links to right-wing radical groups. One of the victims was head-butted in the attack. Locals and police were able to bring the asylum seekers to safety before authorities themselves were set upon. Officials used tear gas as the perpetrators fled.
In Karlsruhe, in southwestern Germany, a fire at an empty building that was planned to be used for housing refugees, suffered damage worth around 70,000 euros ($75, 800) on Saturday night. Police have not ruled of xenophobic motives. A similar incident was also reported in Aschaffenburg, close to Frankfurt in the west of the country. No damage was caused, however.
In Halberstadt in central Germany, six youths were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of throwing stones at German Red Cross workers, slightly injuring a 20-year-old. The organization had set up tents close to a sports hall as temporary accommodation for refugees, where the perpetrators were reportedly heard chanting "Foreigners out!"
German Justice Minister Heiko Mass condemned the weekend of assaults.
"Every attack on a refugee home is an attack on our society and an attack on us all," he said on Twitter. "We've had enough!"
'No refugee center in my back yard'
A controversial map, apparently created by a neo-Nazi group and which shows the locations of refugee homes and planned shelters across Germany, also resurfaced online on Sunday after being removed by Google on Friday. The original map whose title translates roughly to "No refugee center in my backyard", suggested there was little space left in Germany which isn't already home to an asylum center or refugee shelter.
The new version, titled "Overview of asylum seekers' homes in Germany," calls on Internet users to register "planned or already-built homes from your region."
"We approve the fundamental claim to asylum but we categorically reject its misuse," wrote the founders of the map.
European Union interior ministers are set to meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the distribution of refugees across the EU.
ksb/sms (dpa, AFP, KNA)