BERLIN – Germany's foreign ministry said Friday it has launched a campaign to dispel "myths" about the country's willingness to take in migrants, and the conditions they might expect to find if they do come.
Some 450,000 people have come to Germany seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty since the start of the year. Many have paid large sums of money to people traffickers spreading false hopes of a better life in Germany, the country's foreign minister said.
"We need to set those rumors right and fight the trafficking organizations," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Prague. One myth, he said, was that "in Europe, wherever it may be, everyone either has a right to asylum or a guaranteed job."
The German government has repeatedly been caught on the wrong foot in recent weeks by exaggerated reports about Germany's largesse toward refugees. Some refugees arriving in the country say they have been told that Germany has offered to take in anyone who wants asylum and won't send anyone back.
The reality is that the government has said that asylum request from Syrians and some other groups will be fast tracked, but aren't automatically approved. Migrants from other countries where the situation is more nuanced, such as Afghanistan and Iran, will be treated the same as in the past, while those from places like the Balkans, seeking primarily to improve their economic prospects, will almost certainly be sent home.
A foreign ministry spokesman said authorities would try to set the record straight on social media in particular, where misinformation was particularly prevalent and swiftly shared.
In particular, Germany maintains that the European Union rule requiring refugees to apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach is still in force.
"We're trying to target particular countries and people to expose obviously false rumors and tell people the truth as honestly and openly as we can what their prospects are in Germany and Europe," the spokesman, Martin Schaefer, told reporters in Berlin.
"Germany isn't just the country of milk and honey, where everything you would want flies into your mouth like a fried pigeon."