Obama praises Germany’s role in refugee crisis

President Obama has discussed the refugee crisis and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine with Chancellor Merkel. [Beth Rankin/Flickr]

In a phone call to Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama acknowledged Berlin’s contribution to the ongoing refugee crisis, while Justice Minister Heiko Maas has told Facebook it must remove abusive content. EURACTIV Germany reports.

During his call, Obama made particular mention of Germany’s decision to relieve the pressure on other countries by accepting more Syrian refugees, said a government spokesperson on Thursday. Recently, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, also praised Germany for taking a leading role in dealing with the crisis. Europe is currently trying to deal with the biggest influx of refugees since the end of World War II. Germany alone expects to take 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

>>Read: Merkel booed at site of refugee attacks

The reason for Obama’s call, according to the White House, was the increase in violence by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Obama commended the progress made by Ukraine in implementing the Minsk peace agreement and called upon Russia to do the same.

In eastern Ukraine, there has been renewed conflict between government and separatist forces, despite there still being an official ceasefire in place. Since April 2014, the fighting has claimed more than 6,800 lives.

Maas to Facebook – “we need to talk”

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called upon Facebook to remove xenophobic and racist posts from its site. Right-wing populists and extremists have mobilised against the increased intake of refugees, launching xenophobic attacks like those seen recently in the eastern town of Heidenau. They have taken to the Internet to spread their message, Facebook included. So far the SPD has removed over 150 posts from its Facebook page. In a letter to the social networking service, Maas voiced his concerns about the posts not being deleted immediately. He invited the company to a meeting in two weeks to discuss the issue.

German Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière has proposed laws in which the number of asylum seekers will be reduced, particularly those whose chances of actually being granted asylum are low. Under the proposals, refugees will have to stay longer in the so-called initial reception camp. In addition, monetary payments would be replaced by a non-cash alternative. These measures are intended to allow deportations to be carried out more easily.

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