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German Jews Have Muted Response to Proposal on Limiting Refugees

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Jewish leaders have had a muted reaction to an agreement reached this week between Germany’s major political parties to curtail the influx of refugees seeking asylum here.

While they have not opposed the agreement, they generally prefer fighting the current surge of attacks against foreigners by cracking down on the right-wing extremists responsible for the violence and the desecration of Jewish memorials.

Ignaz Bubis, chairman of the Jewish community, has warned that a curb in immigration is not the answer to neutralizing right-wing extremists who, he says, will always find targets for their hatred and violence.

Bubis has, however, avoided criticism of the accord reached between the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the main opposition Social Democratic Party. It will effectively prevent more than 80 percent of asylum-seekers from entering the country. community chairman is himself a member of the Free Democratic Party, a junior coalition partner that backs the agreement to limit immigration by constitutional amendment.

The accord denies access at the German borders to refugees arriving from countries defined by the United Nations as free from political persecution.

That will automatically exclude refugees from all of Germany’s neighbors – – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Switzerland — through which most refugees travel to reach Germany.

Politicians from all major parties have been arguing recently that while Germany should retain its constitutional obligation to accept asylum-seekers, it cannot afford to become a haven for all refugees who seek to improve their economic lot.

They also have voiced the view that the government should give more consideration to how the general public feels about the increasing influx of refugees. Nearly half a million asylum-seekers have entered Germany this year alone, most of them from eastern or southern Europe.

Many Germans feel the generous German asylum policy has been misused by a large number of refugees. If the agreement becomes law, the government hopes that a decrease in pressure on communities to accept refugees will reduce the temptation to applaud neo-Nazis who attack foreigners.

But Jewish leaders and others have warned that the government should focus instead on a determined battle against racism and anti-Semitism.

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