Germany to Push EU to Take In Iraqi Christian Refugees | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.04.2008
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Germany to Push EU to Take In Iraqi Christian Refugees

Germany's interior minister got backing from the country's top security officials to press the EU to open up to Christian refugees from Iraq. But the ministers failed to agree on a new attempt to ban the far-right NPD.

A Catholic church in Iraq

German officials said Iraqi Christians should be able to find refuge in the EU

Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble got the green light from the country's 16 top state security officials to start a European Union initiative for the acceptance of Iraqi Christians as refugees. Schaeuble will make the proposal at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg on Friday, April 18.

He said an improvement to the situation of Iraqi Christians was "desperately necessary." No details of Schaeuble's plans were made public, nor was it clear how many refugees Germany would accept.

The interior minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Heribert Rech, said financial issues still had to be resolved as did the possibility that such a regulation could make Germany a magnet for refugees.

Berlin Interior Minister Erhart Koerting cautioned against focusing exclusively on Christians and suggested adopting a broader approach.

"I would link it to religious persecution," he said.

Too many foreigners, school kids say

The results of a new report which showed that xenophobia is widespread among German school kids were also brought up at the ministers' meeting in Bad Saarow, in the state of Brandenburg.

Young people on a street

Young Germans said there were too many foreigners in Germany

In the study, carried out by a national working group on youth violence, every third German school child said they agreed "entirely" that there were too many foreigners in Germany. Another third said they pretty much agreed.

One in thirteen admitted they had committed a crime attributable to the far right, such as scrawling swastikas and damaging the property of foreigners.

The initial results of the study, based on a survey of 30,000 school children of all ages by the Interior Ministry and the Crime Research Institute of Lower Saxony, were published on Thursday in the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper.

Far-right ban

The ministers also discussed the possibility of launching a new attempt to ban the far-right NPD party, which has been mooted by Social Democrats.

The officials agreed that the party was hostile to the constitution, Brandenburg's Interior Minister Joerg Schoenbohm said. But the Christian Democrats (CDU) among them rejected the initiative for fear that the case would not be strong enough to succeed at the Constitutional Court.

"It would be the greatest propaganda success the NPD could achieve," Schoenbohm, a Christian Democrat, said.

The SPD first attempted to push through an NPD ban in 2003, but Germany's high court threw the case out because prosecution witnesses had worked as informants for intelligence agencies.

Losing steam

NPD supporters demonstrating on the streets of Oldenburg

The NPD benefits from public money

The CDU ministers have instead proposed that the NPD be combated by changing legislation to prevent it from receiving government subsidies. The NPD has about 7,000 members and has seats in two regional state parliaments, both in the former communist East. As a legitimate political party, it gets over 1 million euros ($1.6 million) in public funding per year.

Interior Minister Schaeuble had called for an end to the debate on Wednesday.

But Berlin's Koerting, a Social Democrat, said the federal government coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats should address it.

"I have no doubt that the material is sufficient to prove the NPD is hostile to the constitution, also at the Constitutional Court," he said.

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