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Refugees

Gauck calls for overhaul of Germany's, EU's refugee policies

President Joachim Gauck has urged Germany and the EU to take in more refugees and rethink policies. Speaking at a conference in Berlin, he called for more solidarity with refugees and among EU member states.

"Solidarity is, first and foremost, a basis for any relationship and a symbol of our democracy," Gauck said Monday at a symposium on the protection of refugees organized by Germany's Protestant Academy.

He said that the EU and Germany "were doing a lot" when it comes to helping refugees, but "not as much as we often seem to think."

He urged Germany, in particular, to accept more refugees, for example from Syria. He said that Germany does take in more than any other country in the European Union in absolute terms. When measured in relation to its population, however, Germany, comes in ninth place in the European Union. He warned his home country not to be "self-righteous."

Referring to the thousands of refugees coming in from Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa, Gauck acknowledged that the European Union faced the dilemma of having to protect its southern borders while dealing with refugees in a humane way.

"The refugees who arrive on the Italian or Maltese coasts are not just up to Malta and Italy to deal with," he warned, calling for more solidarity among EU member states.

Migration for growth

Gauck also emphasized the potential economic benefits of migration to the host countries. "We should build on that ... with programs that are designed in a way that benefits both the migrants and the host country," he said.

He pleaded for more flexible policies, pointing out that many refugees had qualifications the host countries could benefit from. However, as refugees seeking asylum are usually not allowed to work, it is nearly impossible for them to use those skills to their and the host country's advantage.

"We should really think about how we can break down the barriers between asylum and economic migration," he said.

Meanwhile, the German government's integration representative, Aydan Üzoguz, also called Monday for improvements to legal migration. Speaking to the Protestant news agency EPD, she said that Europe's shortage of skilled workers required a rethink.

"People need to be able to care for themselves," she said. "And we need skilled workers."

ng/mkg (epd, Reuters, KNA)

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