German President Warns Of Limits To Number Of Refugees | Independent Newspapers Limited
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German President Warns Of Limits To Number Of Refugees

Posted: Sep 29, 2015 at 12:29 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Germany’s president has warned that there are limits to how many refugees his country can absorb as it prepares for as many as 800,000 arrivals this year, showing growing concern even at the highest level over how to look after so many newcomers.

“We want to help. We have a big heart. However, there is a limit to what we can do,” President Joachim Gauck, a former rights activist in communist East Germany, said in a speech.

“Our ability to take in people is limited, although we don’t know yet where those limits are,” he added.

The comments from the head of state, who has a largely ceremonial role but whose words carry moral authority, appeared to be striking a more cautious tone than Chancellor Angela Merkel who has said Germany can cope with the record influx.

The government declined to respond directly to Gauck’s comments, reflecting political convention, but defended its handling of the situation.

“The German government and the chancellor are convinced that protection has to be given to those who need it, whether they are persecuted for political reasons or fleeing war,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

The debate came amid signs of growing tension among asylum seekers, part of a wave of mass migration into the European Union from the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Fourteen people were injured on Sunday when a brawl broke out between two rival groups in a refugee centre in the western German town of Calden, police said. The refugees were being housed in tents set up on a disused airfield.