Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Germany’s embassies launch media drive to counter refugee rumours

When Markus Potzel, Germany’s ambassador to Afghanistan, met senior Afghan government officials and journalists, he had a clear message for them: Don’t believe what you hear about Germany – or at least not everything. While Afghan television channels have made much of the welcome Germany has given to the refugees that have been streaming across its borders, that does not mean everyone can move to Germany or the European Union, he said. Germany has become a magnet for thousands fleeing war and poverty in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Many are escaping the civil war in Syria. Berlin expects 800,000 new arrivals this year. At the weekend Germany brought in temporary border checks in an attempt to control the numbers. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry has decided something must be done to stem the flow before the refugees get to Europe. It has sent out information packs to German embassies telling them how to deal with rumours and disinformation by people-traffickers that it says are giving would-be asylum seekers false hope about their prospects. In Kabul, ambassador Potzel said only around a third of Afghan asylum applications were being accepted at the moment. In Beirut, the embassy warned people not to take what they see online at face value. The embassy said – with an Arabic translation – that it was not true that Germany had agreed to take in 800,000 refugees. The figure, it explained, was an estimate of the numbers expected to arrive in Germany this year and a significant proportion would not be recognised as refugees and would probably have to leave.



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