Germany's warm welcome to refugees has limits, president says

2015-09-28 19:59
German President Joachim Gauck. (Carsten Koall, AFP)

German President Joachim Gauck. (Carsten Koall, AFP)

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Berlin - German President Joachim Gauck on Sunday welcomed newly arrived refugees, but questioned the country's capacity to keep its doors open long-term in a speech that grappled with the difficulties of receiving hundreds of thousands of migrants.

"Our absorption capacity is limited, even if it has not yet been decided where these limits lie," he said, speaking at an intercultural ecumenical service in the city of Mainz.

Gauck, whose role as president is largely ceremonial in German politics, spoke of a "fundamental dilemma" between the great willingness to help others and the finite capacity to do so.

He said it was necessary to analyse more closely what can be done on the issue and to have a wide social debate about how a humane refugee policy can be assured in the future.

Gauck said major challenges included finding housing and providing sufficient places in schools and childcare facilities, particularly as many communities are already suffering under strict budgetary conditions.

Despite this, Gauck said Germany has repeatedly in its history proven that shortages can be overcome and challenges mastered.

The president, however, warned that among the refugees could also be fundamentalists who would like to continue to wage the conflicts in their home countries in Germany.

"To these I say: We do not want any religious fanaticism in this country. Holy warriors have to know: The rule of law does not tolerate violence."

This applies too to what the German president called "rightwing radical incendiaries and agitators" who oppose taking in those seeking Germany's protection.

Gauck contrasted this latter group with the many Germans who volunteered to help the arriving refugees, donating their time and resources.

In reference to the approaching winter, Gauck said that their engagement would also be further needed "when the initial euphoria of giving has evaporated".

Addressing the refugees themselves, he welcomed them to participate actively in German society and work life, saying: "After the travails of your Odyssee, I want to say to you: You are safe here."

Read more on:    germany  |  migrants

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