BERLIN (Reuters) - A regional branch of Germany’s migration agency will stop deciding on asylum applications, authorities said on Wednesday, after reported mistakes in its rulings stirred fresh concern about one of the country’s most divisive political issues.
The restriction placed on the Bremen regional branch by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, from Bavaria, highlights his determination to show he is tough on migration before a regional election in the southern state later in the year.
An internal review by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) of 4,568 asylum rulings had found that the Bremen branch knowingly and regularly disregarded legal regulations and internal rules, the Interior Ministry said.
“Confidence in the quality of the asylum procedures and the integrity of the Bremen arrival centre (for refugees) has been massively damaged,” Seehofer said in a statement.
More than 1.6 million migrants, many from the Middle East, have arrived in Germany since 2014, becoming a hot political issue which helped propel the far-right Alternative for Germany into parliament for the first time in last year’s election.
Georg Pazderski, a member of the AfD’s executive board said at a news conference before the announcement in Berlin on Wednesday: “Of course Seehofer isn’t doing enough to clear things up at the BAMF - I want everything about this to be put on the table.”
“We’re seeing that the affair is getting ever bigger and I think setting up an investigative committee would be the right thing to do,” he added.
The Interior Ministry said Seehofer would take part in an extraordinary meeting of parliament’s interior committee on May 29, which BAMF Director Jutta Cordt would also attend.
The Nuremberg/Fuerth public prosecutor’s office has said it is looking at accusations against Cordt after a complaint was made against her on suspicion of facilitating illegal residence.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers, additional reporting by Michelle Martin, Writing by Paul Carrel, Editing by William Maclean