Merkel visits ′challenged′ Marxloh for citizens′ dialogue | News | DW | 25.08.2015
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Merkel visits 'challenged' Marxloh for citizens' dialogue

German Chancellor Merkel has continued a national dialogue series on what it means to live a good life in Germany with citizens of Marxloh. The community in the city of Duisburg is among the poorest in Germany.

As part of an ongoing national dialogue initiative by the German government known as "Good Living in Germany," Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to the community of Marxloh in the city of Duisburg on Tuesday.

Marxloh is among the poorest communities in Germany. Crime rates and unemployment are well above the national average, and 64 percent of Marxloh's population has an immigrant background.

On the "Good Living in Germany" website, the town is described as a community in Duisburg that "faces particular challenges due to structural changes in the past decades," listing the decline of the coal and steel industry in the 1970s and 1980s as one of them.

Merkel's previous stops as part of the "Good Living in Germany" program included Berlin and Rostock. In each case, similar discussions were conducted with local citizens about what it means to have a good life in Germany. In Rostock, Merkel was confronted with a tearful teenager whose future in Germany as a refugee was uncertain.

In Marxloh, many of the town's inhabitants are from Southeast Europe. On Tuesday, Merkel said the increasing number of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania would be a "stress test" for the town, saying that the message could not be that "everyone can come" because "it's not possible."

Focus on refugees

The visit comes at a time when Germany's stance on refugees is being debated in depth. Recently, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Germany could see up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

While many refugees in Germany come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40 percent of asylum applicants in 2015 have come from countries such as Kosovo, Albania and Serbia, de Maiziere said. Germany has made it clear that refugees from Balkan states have little chance of gaining asylum.

War refugees are being taken in by Germany, however, which does not sit well with some German citizens. Over the weekend, right-wing groups at an asylum-seeker home in the town of Heidenau violently clashed with police. Housing for asylum-seekers in other parts of Germany has been burned down in arson attacks as well.

Next stop Heidenau

Merkel announced on Tuesday that she would travel to Heidenau on Wednesday.

Regarding the violent clashes in Heidenau over the weekend and the general attitude in some cases toward refugees, Merkel said on Monday "it's repulsive how far-right extremists and neo-Nazis are spreading their hollow message, but it's equally shameful how citizens - even families with children - support this by marching along."

In Marxloh on Tuesday, Merkel referred to the disproportionate role Germany and other countries such as Sweden were playing in taking in asylum-seekers.

"Three or four from 28 can't carry all the weight," she said of the 28 countries in the European Union.

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mz/jil (dpa, epd)

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