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Germans want tougher stance from Merkel on immigration - poll

Monday, 15 December 2014

(Reuters) - A majority of Germans think Angela Merkel's government is paying too little attention to concern about immigration and asylum seekers that has prompted weekly marches in the city of Dresden, according to a poll.

In the survey by TNS for Spiegel magazine, to be published on Sunday, 65 percent said the chancellor's right-left coalition was not taking current record levels of immigration and asylum seekers seriously enough.

More than a third believe Germany is undergoing a process of "Islamisation". Dresden has seen increasingly popular Monday marches under the slogan PEGIDA, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West".

Germany has an estimated 4 million Muslims, in a total population of nearly 81 million.

Merkel condemned the marches on Friday, saying via an aide there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other religious or racial group. She also condemned this week's arson attack on buildings in Bavaria which are due to house aslyum seekers. Police suspect it was the work of the far right.

Merkel argues that Germany, whose population is ageing and shrinking, needs immigrant workers to avoid a chronic shortage of skilled labour. But local officials say they are struggling to cope with the largest number of asylum-seekers in Europe, with net immigration at its highest levels in two decades.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere accuses the organisers of the PEGIDA marches of twisting the facts and says "there is no risk of Islamisation of German society". Dresden, like much of eastern Germany, has very low levels of immigration in comparison with west German cities.

Some of Merkel's conservatives are responding to the public concern: this week her Christian Democrats (CDU) debated banning the burka, the full body covering worn by some Muslim women, and her Bavarian allies had to drop a proposal to oblige immigrants to speak German at home.

The latest PEGIDA march on Monday drew up to 10,000 people and almost as many counter-demonstrators. The organisers, who began two months ago with a few hundred people, say they are not against immigrants but want to protest against Islamic extremism and the influx of asylum-seekers.

German officials are alarmed at the rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment. This year has seen right-wingers join forces with football hooligans against Salafist Muslims and a rise in attacks on Jews linked to the Middle East crisis.

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