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'Fingerprints for foreigners' sparks outcry

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'Fingerprints for foreigners' sparks outcry
MEP Elmar Brok suggested east Europeans should be finger printed to stop benefit cheats. Photo: DPA
12:19 CET+01:00
The debate over Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants arriving in Germany reached a more sinister level on Friday, when one leading Conservative politician called for finger prints to be taken to stop eastern Europeans getting benefits.

Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok, told newspaper Bild: “Immigrants who only come to Germany for Hartv IV (unemployment benefits), child benefit and health insurance must be sent back quickly to their home countries. To prevent multiple entries we should think about taking finger prints.”

Brok, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), was criticized by his own party for the comments.

Armin Laschet, a vice-chairman of the CDU, said the idea “did not fit with an open Europe.”

The arguments within Merkel’s “grand coalition” government over Bulgarians and Romanians arriving in Germany after travel restrictions were lifted on January 1st has so far been between the centre-left Social Democrats and Merkel’s Bavaria allies, the CSU, who take a tougher stance on immigration.

But Brok’s comments have caused friction within Merkel’s CDU.

Regina Görner, CDU board member, described CSU calls for restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians as “absurd”.  

The CSU wants to make it harder for new immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania to access Germany’s generous welfare state.
   
Meanwhile the Social Democrats who are in a coalition government with the CDU and CSU have dismissed the Bavarian party’s calls as populism.
    
Figures from the Federal Employment Agency show 0.6 percent of Hartz IV unemployment benefits go to Bulgarians and Romanians. Between September 2012 and August 2013 people from the two countries claimed €172 million. 

READ MORE: Foreign minister hits out at immigration critics

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