Trump ignored facts with dig at Merkel's refugee policy: German minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ignored the facts with his assertion that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy had resulted in a huge increase in crime, a German minister told Reuters on Tuesday.

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Trump said Merkel’s decision to welcome more than a million refugees to Germany was a “disaster” during a campaign rally in Ohio on Monday and said his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton wanted to be like the German leader.

“In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany,” Trump said. “Crime has risen to levels that no one thought they would ever, ever see. It is a catastrophe.”

Statistics compiled by the German Interior Ministry showed the number of crimes reported in 2015 - excluding visa violations and other immigration violations - remained essentially unchanged from the previous year at 5.9 million.

Michael Roth, Germany’s European affairs minister, told Reuters Trump’s statement was incorrect and it was important to correct campaign statements in other countries that were based on “fears, lies and half-truths”, given the importance of the U.S. election for the world.

“I’m sorry that the Republican presidential candidate trumpets out things like that without any factual basis,” Roth said.

“If he had studied the actual situation in Germany, he would know that, while the many refugees who came to Germany and Europe pose a big challenge for us, and everything is still not completely resolved, they have not led to a massive increase in crime rates.”

Roth said Germany remained a peaceful country where people treated each other with respect, and efforts continued to integrate the refugees into the broader society and economy.

German authorities identified 12,710 cases of illegal migration - mostly from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq - in the first half of 2016, compared with 128,655 cases in all 2015, Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe reported on Tuesday, quoting the government’s response to a parliamentary query.

It said authorities had stopped about 1 million people to check their immigration status in the first half of the year, compared with about 3 million in the full year of 2015.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Janet Lawrence, Larry King