German cabinet approves identity card for refugees

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 8:11 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's cabinet agreed on Wednesday to introduce an identity card for refugees as it tries to better control the wave of migrants arriving from Syria, Afghanistan and other trouble spots.

Around one million refugees are expected to arrive in Germany this year and local authorities have struggled to cope with scale and pace of the influx.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under increasing criticism by opposition groups and some of her conservative allies for opening up Germany's borders to Syrian refugees, criticism that has increased since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

The cards will include information on refugees' date and place of birth, nationality and gender, as well as a photo and details on height and eye color. Registration centers will also take fingerprints.

"This way we can try and better detect people who are trying to disguise their identity," Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere said in a statement.

The government hopes to start handing the cards out by mid February, once the ID cards have been approved by parliament, with the aim of having them fully introduced by next year.

Refugees will need an ID card if they want to receive benefits and apply for asylum, de Maiziere said.

"The draft law is a further important step to register the people who are arriving quickly while ensuring their identity," he added.

The data will be collected during refugees' first contact with the authorities and will be saved in a central register which will be made available to all relevant authorities.

Details on health and vaccinations will also be recorded, as well as information on refugees' academic and professional qualifications to help speed up the integration process.

In order to avoid registering the same person twice, centers will be equipped with finger print matching systems.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley)