Schaeuble Says Germany Must Send Refugees Back to Afghanistan

  • No right to asylum with German troops there, minister says
  • Tensions mounting in German coalition over refugee influx

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Germany and its allies are keeping troops in Afghanistan longer than planned to protect civilians there, meaning people fleeing the war-torn nation have no right to seek asylum in Europe’s biggest economy.

The continued military deployment “means, of course, that we’re in Afghanistan so that the people don’t have to leave Afghanistan,” Schaeuble said Wednesday in a speech at a logistics congress in Berlin. “That’s why the people must remain in Afghanistan, and when they come here, we must send them back to Afghanistan. That’s always been the goal of the mission.”

Germany and its European Union partners must work together to stop the uncontrolled influx of refugees, Schaeuble said. The government’s decision to let in thousands of Syrians and other people fleeing from war and poverty stranded in Hungary was an exceptional measure and saved “Europe’s honor,” he said, recalling images of other refugees trying to reach the U.K through the Channel Tunnel from France.

Weekend Meeting

Schaeuble’s message to Afghans comes as tensions mount in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition over how to manage the country’s biggest influx of refugees since World War II. Merkel will meet the chairmen of her coalition partners -- Horst Seehofer of the Bavarian Christian Social Union and Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democratic Party -- this weekend to discuss the situation on the border with Austria, where most migrants enter Germany, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

While not completely sealing off its border with Slovenia, Austria will erect “fixed constructions” on crossings to help establish an “orderly” influx of refugees, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said on ORF radio Wednesday. Austria wants to be prepared in case the flow of migrants increases, she said.

“We can only solve our big problems together in Europe,” Schaeuble said. “That’s becoming even more apparent and more immediate for most of our citizens in the refugee crisis, than it did before in the debt and economic crisis.”

While the influx of refugees to Germany can’t be unlimited, the government won’t maintain its goal of balancing the budget if it means more people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, Schaeuble said.

Reform Call

The German finance minister also spoke of the need for continued reforms in the euro area. Though euro-region governance has been strengthened and bailed-out countries such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal have made economic progress, the currency bloc mustn’t let up in carrying out structural changes and avoid creating the wrong incentives, Schaeuble said.

“As long as they’re not ready to implement European rules in a timely fashion, as is the case in banking union, we don’t need to discuss other ways of a further mutualization of risks or new European financial transfers,” Schaeuble said. “In Europe we must advance step by step, and those who take the fourth step before the first will just stumble.”

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