Birmingham Summit: Opposition boycotts Bonn asylum debate

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The Independent Online
BONN - Germany's three governing coalition parties used their parliamentary majority yesterday to approve their motion for toughening the country's asylum legislation, writes John Eisenhammer.

But the passionate two-hour debate in the Bundestag was condemned to remain little more than a demonstration of political will by the centre-right coalition. For the opposition Social Democrats, whose support is needed for any constitutional amendment, boycotted the vote. The SPD has called an extraordinary congress next month to decide the party line on asylum, and stressed that before then nothing can happen.

Having only just managed, after more than a year of bitter divisions, to forge a common line on asylum, the coalition used yesterday's debate to exert pressure on the SPD by emphasising the catastrophe looming should the flood of foreigners into Germany not be controlled.

Schauble, leader of the Christian Democrat parliamentary party. He said the situation in the country had become 'dangerously strained' by widespread intolerance and outbreaks of horrific xenophobic violence.

The government said yesterday it expected about 450,000 people to enter Germany seeking asylum this year. The government's proposals to change the generous constitutional clause on asylum, making it easier to expel economic refugees, 'is precisely what an overriding sector of the population is longing for', said the Interior Minister, Rudolf Seiters.

'People are increasingly getting the feeling that immigration to Germany and Europe is getting out of control,' said Mr Seiters. He warned of the growth of support for the extreme-right.