German minister defends decision to take refugees from Greek islands

BERLIN, Sept 16- Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Wednesday defended Germany’s decision to take a further 1,553 refugees from camps in Greece, saying the country could be proud of its role in Europe’s migration crisis. On Tuesday, Germany announced it would take in 408 families, mostly children and their parents, after a fire devastated the overcrowded Moria…

BERLIN, Sept 16 (Reuters) – Interior Minister Horst Seehofer

on Wednesday defended Germany’s decision to take a further 1,553

refugees from camps in Greece, saying the country could be proud

of its role in Europe’s migration crisis.

On Tuesday, Germany announced it would take in 408 families,mostly children and their parents, after a fire devastated theovercrowded Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, leavingalmost 13,000 migrants homeless.

But the decision drew criticism, especially from thefar-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which surged inpopularity following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision tolet in more than a million refugees, some of them fleeingconflicts in the Middle East.

The latest move was not comparable in scale, Seehofer toldGerman legislators, adding that, unlike in 2015, Germany knewexactly who it was taking in and all of them had already beenconfirmed to be genuine asylum seekers.

The total number of asylum seekers Germany would admit thisyear would not exceed 100,000, he added.

The decision to admit the asylum seekers followed pressurefrom regional politicians who said their cities and regions wereprepared to take in refugees, and from activist groups whoprotested outside parliament under the slogan “We Have Space”.

The federal government is still hoping to negotiate aEurope-wide solution under which refugees can be dispersedthroughout the European Union.

“I am the only interior minister in Europe so far who hasput forward a proposal for solving this issue,” Seehofer toldlegislators. “Germany can be proud of that.”

German society is divided on the issue. While 47% of peoplewant to take in refugees from Moria, 39% do not, according to aYouGov poll for Die Welt.(Reporting by Holger Hansen, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editingby Mike Collett-White)

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