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SPD criticizes Merkel silence on German asylum scandal
BY 2018-05-29 07:18:41

BERLIN, May 28 (Xinhua) -- The German Social Democrats (SPD) on Monday criticized Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel for her silence in a public debate sparked by irregularities at the federal office for migration and asylum (Bamf).

"Merkel is hiding from her own responsibility. She is silent, inactive and wants to wait until issues surrounding a loss of control at Bamf sort themselves out," Ralf Stegner, SPD deputy parliamentary faction leader, told newspaper Welt. "The chancellor must now finally ensure that (the scandal) is resolved and start clarifying things herself," Stegner added.

A senior Bamf employee in Bremen stands accused of incorrectly granting humanitarian residency in Germany to at least 1,200 applications asylum seekers between 2013 and 2017.

The Bremen State Prosecution Office has confirmed that the employee in question, three attorneys and a translator are being investigated on suspicion of corruption and organized incitement of filing fraudulent asylum applications.

The comments of the chancellor side is not available now.

Merkel made asylum policy a personal priority at the height of the refugee crisis in the summer of 2015 by transferring some responsibilities in the issue-area to the German chancellery. Peter Altmaier, then the chancellery's secretary of state, was temporarily designated as the government's official refugee coordinator. Nevertheless, the Bamf director continued to report to the interior minister.

Interior minister and Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer reiterated on Monday that there would be a comprehensive investigation into the scandal. Referring to an upcoming parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, Seehofer announced on the public broadcaster ZDF that he would say everything that he knows in the federal parliament.

However, Seehofer refused to provide any information about the fate of the embattled Bamf director Jutta Cordt prior to the hearing. Seehofer has also come under pressure himself in the affair for allegedly withholding information from the public.

Josefa Schmid, a civil servant who was posted to the Bamf Bremen office as an interim director following the first reports of the scandal, says that she personally informed the minster in March about 3,332 asylum decisions which she believed to be incorrect. Schmid complained that her subsequent transfer to a different station in Bavaria was "arbitrary" and intended as "punishment" for her vocal criticism of the Bamf headquarters.

By contrast, Seehofer insists that he only learnt of the irregularities concerning asylum applications in mid-April. The minister emphasized once again on Monday that he acted immediately by prohibiting the Bremen Bamf office from making any further asylum decisions and asking the Federal Audit Office to launch an independent inquiry.

Seehofer argued that the scandal highlighted the urgent need for so-called "anchor centers", an initiative championed by the interior minister which would witness the centralized confinement of asylum seekers until a verdict is reached in their individual cases. "After all, we don't just want to make the asylum procedures faster but also safer in the centers," the CSU leader told ZDF.

The interior minister further said that the Bremen case called for an overhauling of Germany's approach to refugees in general, a topic addressed in a new "master plan" which would be published within the next weeks. Seehofer warned that the problems of overwhelmed government agencies discovered in the scandal could not be solved "without a limitation (of immigration)."

At the same time, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) called for an external review of all asylum decisions made by the Bamf between 2014 and 2017. "The agency should not monitor itself in this case," FDP interior spokesperson Linda Teuteberg told newspaper Bild.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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