German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has said that his country’s generous welfare benefits act like a magnet for migrants, and called for a unification of standards throughout the European Union (EU) to better distribute new arrivals.
Since Germany offers migrants and refugees much more than other EU member states, it has become an attractive target for human smugglers, de Maizière said.
De Maizière told the Rheinische Post newspaper Saturday that Germany is the destination of choice for many migrants because in comparison with other European countries, its “procedures and reception conditions are generous” and “the benefits for refugees are quite high.”
“That’s part of the pull-factor to Germany,” he said.
Germany’s magnet effect on migration has taken on other forms as well, de Maizière said. In the summer of 2015, “we were under great pressure to make forecasts about the number of refugees to be expected so that the municipalities could plan,” he said.
When the minister released the figure of 800,000 migrants in August 2015, this sent a “signal” to prospective migrants and traffickers that Germany was willing to take in that many and this, in turn, acted as a “driver” of migration, he added.
De Maizière suggested that Hungary’s announcement that it would be building a border fence had the opposite deterrent effect, since migrants understood that Hungary would no longer be a viable alternative.
At the same time, regarding Hungary’s resistance to forcible relocation of migrants on its soil, de Maizière said it is intolerable “that an EU Member State does not comply with a judgment of the European Court of Justice.”
Another procedural area requiring greater uniformity in the EU is the legal question, de Maizière said. “With us, rejected asylum seekers can postpone their deportation through various legal avenues, much more than elsewhere,” he noted.
“Asylum processes and asylum-seeker benefits need to be more uniform in the EU than before. The acceptance rates are in some cases higher here than in other places and the social benefit level as well,” he said.
All in all, the real solution is an overall diminishing in the number of migrants entering Europe, he acknowledged.
“The topic of migration is a long-term topic that will occupy us for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Europe must coordinate, control and limit the influx of refugees.”
“We must reduce the number of refugees as a whole,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome