But hyperbolic political rhetoric reached a strange new peak this week when Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told a newspaper that closing the country’s borders would lead to inbreeding.
In an interview with weekly paper Die Zeit, Mr Schäuble rejected the idea Europe could close its borders to immigrants, and said: “Isolation is what would ruin us – it would lead us into inbreeding.”
Taking aim at opponents of Germany’s border policies, he said: “Muslims are an enrichment of our openness and our diversity.”
“Look at the third generation of Turks, especially the women. That is an enormous innovation potential,” he added.
Germany took in more than a million asylum seekers in 2015, and the issue of integration has seen rows over immigration dominating the political landscape.
The country has also seen a swell of anti-Islamic groups, and the government has said attacks with a far-right motivation reached a 15-year high in 2015.
But Mr Schäuble’s claim that Germans will resort to inbreeding has left many bewildered as to what he means.
German daily paper Der Tagesspiegel described the assertion as “bizarre”, and asks why, in a country of over 80 million people, a stop to immigration would lead to inbreeding.
Mr Schäuble also called for greater economic engagement with the Middle East and Africa, English language German paper theLocal.de reports.
“North African countries are already demanding [economic investment] from us as a condition for taking refugees back. And they are right to do so,” he said.
Update. This article originally translated Mr Schäuble's use of the German word 'inzucht' as 'incest'. On reflection, 'inbreeding' appears to be a more appropriate rendering in English. Our report has been updated on this basis. 8/6/17
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