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AIDS Tests For Refugees Raise Ire of Opposition

January 8, 1993

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ A government minister on Friday proposed AIDS tests for some refugees, raising the ire of an opposition already angered by plans to use radar at German borders to stop illegal immigrants.

One activist said requiring such AIDS tests would be like ″pouring oil on the fire of growing xenophobia in Germany,″ where right-wing extremists have been waging a violent battle against foreigners.

The proposal came as the government also prepares controversial changes to Germany’s liberal asylum law to stop the huge influx of refugees from eastern Europe and Third World countries.

Carl-Dieter Spranger, minister for economic development, made the proposal in an interview with the Hamburg-based Bild newspaper. Spranger’s spokesman, Wolfgang Kanera, confirmed Spranger’s statements.

Spranger, a member of Bavaria’s arch-conservative Christian Social Union, said asylum-seekers from countries ″with high infection rates″ of HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - should be tested and their asylum applications quickly processed.

He said tests were necessary in view of increased numbers of HIV-infected people in Germany and the ″explosive spread of the disease AIDS in certain African and Asian countries,″ Bild reported.

A spokeswoman of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Cornelie Sonntag, said the idea represents ″outright promotion of prejudice and fear″ of foreigners.

Reinhard Heikamp, head of the Berlin-based AIDS Assistance Office, described Spranger’s proposal as ″forced AIDS testing of refugees″ and said it was like ″pouring oil on the fire of growing xenophobia in Germany.″

More than 430,000 asylum-seekers flooded Germany last year, almost double the 256,000 in 1991. The influx has caused growing resentment against foreigners and increased anti-foreigner violence.

Last year there were more than 2,100 radical rightist attacks against foreigners, and 17 people died.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s three-party coalition negotiated an agreement with the main opposition Social Democrats last month to change Germany’s asylum law.

The agreement foresees turning many refugees back at the border, and refusing asylum to those from lands the government lists as without political persecution.

The Interior Ministry said last weekend it would use radar along the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic to catch unwanted asylum-seekers.

A Social Democrat member of Parliament, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, said Monday that the plan would treat refugees ″as if they were enemies by apprehending them through the use of military devices.″

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