Kohl coalition agrees to refugee limit

October 14, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BONN, Germany -- The parties in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's coalition government agreed yesterday on a proposal for a change in the country's constitution to curb an influx of refugees in an effort to halt a rash of violence against foreigners.

The change would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, but many members of the opposition Social Democratic Party, which controls one of the legislative chambers, are against it.

To the Social Democrats, an amendment to the constitution would be a shameful political concession to neo-Nazi brutality after a series of firebombings and beatings that have killed 10 foreigners so far this year.

An adviser to Mr. Kohl said yesterday that the government parties, the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats, would submit the proposal for debate in Parliament tomorrow and hoped that it would be approved by the end of this year or early in 1993.

If the refugee influx continues, this adviser said, the government would examine the possibility of a law setting new conditions for applications to immigrate. Now, with few exceptions, only ethnic Germans can apply to settle here.

But many more can enter Germany by claiming the right to asylum, as nearly 320,000 foreigners did so during the first nine months of this year. Government officials expect the total to rise to about 500,000 by the end of December.

Under the 1949 constitution of West Germany, "People persecuted on political grounds shall enjoy the right of asylum." In practice, anyone who claims asylum is allowed to stay in the country, at government expense, until the claim can be examined. This now takes an average of 13 months, but in the end, about 90 percent of the claims are rejected.

Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, German officials say, most asylum-seekers have been trying to get away from deteriorating economic conditions, not political persecution.

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