Merkel allies say Germany must favour Christian migrants

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Berlin (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Bavarian allies sparked anger Thursday by calling for tougher immigration rules that would favour migrants from Europe's "Christian-occidental cultural sphere".

The Christian Social Union (CSU) in a party paper also demanded a ban on Muslim facial veils, an end to dual citizenship, iron-clad rules that newcomers socially integrate and learn German, as well as an upper limit of 200,000 asylum seekers a year.

The party -- which has fervently attacked Merkel's liberal stance on refugees that welcomed a million asylum seekers into the EU's top economy last year -- plans to present the paper, seen by AFP and widely reported on in Germany, at a two-day party meeting starting Friday.

The move comes days after the right-wing populist and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) beat Merkel's party in a state vote, and about a year before Germany expects to hold national elections.

Merkel, whose long-stellar approval ratings have taken a dive amid the refugee crisis, on Wednesday warned all political parties against a race to the bottom where they adopt the rhetoric of the anti-Islam AfD.

But her coalition allies from the CSU, based in the deeply conservative and mainly Catholic southern Bavaria region, did not pull their punches in the five-page paper.

"Germany must stay Germany," declared the paper. "We are against our welcoming country being changed through migration and waves of refugees."

- 'Find another country' -

A mass influx like the one seen a year ago, when thousands of refugees entered Germany through Bavaria every day, "must under no circumstances be repeated," it argued.

From now, demanded the CSU, Germany must set an upper limit of accepting 200,000 refugees a year and otherwise give preference to migrants "from our Christian-occidental cultural sphere".

It added that "a state must decide by itself whom it accepts -- it's not the migrants who decide".

It also wants to ban the full-face burqa covering, calling it "a uniform of Islamism, a huge barrier to integration and a symbol of the repression of women that is unacceptable in our culture".

"Those who don't want to live without the burqa and niqab should find another country," it said.

The party also reiterated its long-standing opposition to admitting Turkey into the EU, or granting its citizens eased visa conditions to the bloc as part of a deal to halt the refugee flows to Europe.

The paper echoes some of the key demands of the AfD and even the far-right street movement Pegida, short for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident.

Criticism rained down quickly, with opposition Greens party leader Simone Peter charging that the CSU was seeking to become "the Bavarian sister party of the AfD".

Lawmaker Jan Korte of far-left party Die Linke charged that the paper was "irresponsible, backward-looking and brimming with hypocrisy".

The idea of selecting migrants by cultural background was "racist", he added, charging that the CSU was ignoring the German constitution and international human rights conventions.

- 'Physical, verbal attacks' -

Amid the mass influx to Germany, crimes against foreigners -- including assaults, online hate speech and arson attacks at refugee shelters -- have risen sharply.

The number of "physical and verbal attacks" against Muslims had increased "in an unprecedented way", said the head of the advocacy group Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek.

Attacks against mosques and their congregations had multiplied, as had racial slurs spread on social media, he told the Welt daily.

Mazyek defended Merkel against claims her liberal migrant policy was to blame for the rise of the AfD, which is now represented on the opposition benches in nine of Germany's 16 state assemblies.

"Those who blame the chancellor's refugee policies alone for the AfD's poll success ignore the deep rooted racist resentments in our society," he said.

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