Merz’s claims that 300,000 rejected asylum seekers remain in Germany and are entitled to free healthcare vindicated by Welt fact check

FILE - Opposition leader Friedrich Merz of the Christian Democrats delivers his speech during a debate on Germany's 2023 budget at the German parliament in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Germany’s opposition leader Friedrich Merz caused a stir this week as he sharply criticized the liberal federal coalition government’s migration policy, claiming that 300,000 rejected asylum seekers have not left the country and are now enjoying full benefits including free dental care.

Speaking on the “Welt Talk” program, Merz claimed that German voters were questioning why migrants whose asylum applications had been turned down were having their teeth remade at a time when ordinary Germans can’t get a dental appointment.

“The population, they are going insane, the people, when they see that 300,000 asylum seekers are rejected, do not leave, get the full benefits, get the full medical care,” Merz said.

“They get their teeth remade, and German citizens next door don’t get any appointments,” he added.

The CDU leader, whose party currently tops the opinion polls, called for the receipt of benefits for asylum seekers to be re-examined and told governing liberal politicians: “What you are doing here is a catastrophe for this country.”

Members of the co-governing SPD and German Green Party leaped to the government’s defense on social media in response to the remarks

“Friedrich Merz deliberately plays groups off against each other, spreading misinformation in the process. In this way, not a single problem is solved, but hatred is stirred up. This is unworthy of a leader of a people’s party,” wrote Ricarda Lang, co-leader of the Greens, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Anyone who talks like Merz is usually with the AfD,” added Florian von Brunn, the chairman of the SPD in Bavaria.

However, a fact check by the Die Welt newspaper published on Thursday suggests Merz’s remarks aren’t the misinformation the liberal government claims it to be.

The article states that 304,308 foreign nationals were required to leave Germany at the end of last year, of which 248,145 were classed as “tolerated people,” migrants who are obliged to leave the country but are unable to be forcibly deported by the authorities. This can be for a range of reasons including a lack of identification documents, a lack of cooperation from the country of origin, or medical reasons, the newspaper explained.

Furthermore, regarding access to full benefits, the article noted that while asylum seekers and tolerated people are not able to access free healthcare within the first 18 months of their stay in Germany, legislation provides for the receipt of a refugee health card after 18 months, which enables them to access similar benefits to those insured by statutory health insurance, which is paid for by the state.

The Asylum Seekers Benefit Act does allow for migrants to have access to dental treatments during the first 18 months if such treatment “cannot be postponed for medical reasons.”

The fact check concludes that those who remain living in Germany after 18 months do “have access to the health system,” providing credibility to Merz’s claims.

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The CDU has sought to take advantage of the growing anti-immigration sentiment across Germany, which has fueled a surge in popularity for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is currently enjoying its best-ever polling figures.

Seemingly intent on not ruling in coalition with the fringe party, Merz’s CDU has vowed to implement more restrictive immigration and asylum policies in an attempt to stifle the right-wing group’s support.

The main German opposition party recently issued proposals to abolish the right to asylum for migrants who enter the European Union without permission and implement measures to take genuine refugees directly from war-torn countries.

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