German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is facing criticism over his claim that doctors too often certify rejected asylum applicants as being ill, in order to thwart deportations. The Greens want him to apologize.
The opposition Greens parliamentary manager Britta Hasselmann told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper that de Maiziere had discredited highly dedicated doctors treating refugees through his use of unsubstantiated figures.
On Thursday, de Maiziere had told Düsseldorf's "Rheinische Post" newspaper that 70 percent of male asylum-seekers aged under 40 facing deportation had their cases postponed because they had been certified by doctors as being ill and unfit for travel.
"That contradicts every experience," de Maiziere said.
On Friday, however, the Interior Ministry admitted via Twitter that his claim was not based on nationwide statistics but on "spotlight-like" figures given to de Maiziere in briefings.
The minister maintained his stance on Saturday, telling the German DPA news agency that deportations were being hindered at "all levels," including the use of "spurious health grounds." The law had to be tightened, he added.
Hasselmann described de Maiziere's insinuations as "unconscionable" and said an apology was overdue, despite the Interior Ministry's retraction of the figures.
"One could say that with his insinuation, he lied to the public and parliament," Hasselmann told "Welt am Sonntag."
Ralf Stegner, a senior center-left Social Democratic Party member in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat (CDU)-led grand coalition, accused de Maiziere of spreading clichés and stoking resentment against refugees.
Doctors, not politicians decided whether persons were fit for airborne travel, Stegner told the "Welt am Sonntag," adding that de Maiziere was behaving as an "amateur medic."
Similar scorn came from Left party co-leader Sahra Wagenknecht, who accused de Maiziere of going public on Thursday with "fantasy numbers" and often misleading the public with "scurrile ideas."
Opposition Greens federal parliamentary co-leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt accused de Maiziere of "insulting" doctors by accusing them of issuing fake certificates as well as fostering prejudice against people who sought shelter in Germany.
ipj/sms (dpa, epd, KNA)