Court Says German Refugee Housing Can't Be Based on Funding

  • EU top court rules on German refugee housing restrictions
  • Restrictions can be applied in some cases to help integration

Germany can’t limit where refugees live solely based on financial considerations, the European Union’s highest court said in a case involving two Syrian immigrants who came to the country more than a decade before the current crisis.

A country can only limit where a refugee lives when it would help integrate them in the community, the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a ruling Tuesday. The status of the refugees would have to be completely different to that of other non-EU immigrants to a nation.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the EU court’s decision backed the country’s position that integration policy reasons justified such restrictions.

“Residence restrictions for refugees are urgently needed, to avoid the formation of ghettos, especially in urban areas,” de Maiziere said in an e-mailed statement. “As we read the judgment, residence conditions are in principle in line with European law.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been under pressure -- both at home and abroad -- for her welcoming stance toward refugees. After more than 1 million people fled to the country last year, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer broke with Merkel, calling for her to close the borders and set an upper limit to the number of asylum seekers the country accepts. Seehofer is the leader of the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

Merkel insists the crisis must be tackled by strengthening the EU’s outer frontiers and working with Turkey to stem the flow from that country into the 28-member bloc via Greece. Merkel is aiming for an EU-wide deal on refugees at an emergency summit next week before three German states vote March 13 in the first electoral test of her policy.

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