Munich, 18 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A debate is underway in Germany on how to stem the flood of illegal migrants entering the country despite stricter controls on the borders.
The debate in parliamentary committees in Bonn is directed largely at migrants who destroy their passports and other papers to prevent identification and even nationality. That makes it more difficult for Germany to return them to their home countries.
German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther and other members of the government parties have proposed refusing all financial support and limiting assistance to food, water and medical treatment to those who destroy their identification papers. It is hoped that after a few months of such treatment, the illegal migrants will give up hope of settlement in Germany and return home.
Some of the opposition social democrat party support these measures but others argue they are an affront to human rights and dignity.
Political analysts in Germany expect a heated debate when the proposed legislation is presented to parliament in the next two or three weeks. Government officials in Bonn stress that Germany is not hostile to those fleeing from genuine persecution in their home countries. Figures released earlier this month show that last year it granted asylum to 104,000 people. Among them were about 14,000 Kurds from Iraq. In 1996 the total figure of those granted asylum was 116,000.
But illegal immigration is a problem for Germany. In the first half of last year, around 15,400 illegal migrants were caught on the borders thanks to increased patrols and the use of new technical equipment. Border authorities believe that thousands more evaded capture.
Some come from Kosova, Albania, Romania and parts of the former Soviet empire. Others come from Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran and North Africa. A Bonn government spokesman said today many paid high sums of money to professional gangs of smugglers. Most cross into Germany from Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria, although some illegal immigrants have also been caught on the French and Swiss borders.
An international meeting of police chiefs in Rome earlier this year that while Germany is the most favored country for would-be asylum seekers and illegal migrants it is followed by France, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.
A European Union report earlier this year identified Moscow as a collecting center for prospective illegal migrants coming from Asia, including Bangladesh and Pakistan. Other collecting centers included Kyiv, Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia, and Prague. Istanbul and Athens were also identified as major points of departure for would-be illegal migrants.