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Kevin Kühnert (SPD) in the Bundestag

Photo: Adam Berry / Getty Images

SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert sharply criticizes CDU leader Friedrich Merz for his remarks about rejected asylum seekers. "We all know from the family chat on WhatsApp this one uncle who always shares unchecked false information," Kühnert told SPIEGEL. "It's just annoying in family chat, but if your uncle is the head of the largest opposition group in the German Bundestag, it's unprofessional and dangerous."

"They sit at the doctor's and have their teeth redone"

Merz had told the TV station "Welt" that the population would go mad when they saw that 300,000 asylum seekers were rejected, but did not leave and "get full medical care". Merz's claim: "They sit at the doctor's and have their teeth redone, and the German citizens next door don't get appointments."

Asylum seekers have a limited entitlement to medical services compared to those with statutory health insurance. Dental prostheses are only given if this cannot be postponed in individual cases for medical reasons.

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Previously, Nancy Faeser (SPD) had already criticized the CDU leader. "This is populism, which I also discussed last week in the Bundestag," Faeser said on Thursday in Brussels. This is "completely inappropriate, especially in these times". Merz's statements were also "simply wrong on the merits." Asylum seekers could only go to the dentist in emergencies, if there is really something, said Faeser.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told the Bild newspaper that Merz was agitating against refugees "by apparently deliberately giving the false impression that they are stealing expensive care from the Germans." This, according to Lauterbach, is disgraceful. "It's as if people were faking an escape in order to get expensive dental treatment from the dentist in Germany!"

Tobias Hans: "This will not make the AfD smaller"

The parliamentary secretary of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Katja Mast, demanded an apology from the CDU chief. "Merz should have the decency to apologize for it," she told the Rheinische Post. Mast emphasized: "The derailment to the right is deliberately sought here." Merz is playing with fire. "This is extremely dangerous," added the SPD politician.

"Friedrich Merz is right," said the health policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Tino Sorge (CDU) of the "Rheinische Post". He called the criticism from the ranks of the traffic light coalition "hypocritical indignation". This says a lot about how critical opinions are dealt with.

Hundreds of thousands of rejected asylum seekers in Germany have been obliged to leave the country, some of them for years. "Nevertheless, they can use the German health care system for free," Sorge added. This is something that needs to be discussed. "It is a reality that doctor's appointments are becoming scarcer in many places, also because of the burden of migrants." Numerous municipalities have been confirming this for months.

The former Prime Minister of Saarland, Tobias Hans (CDU), wrote: "This contribution to the debate does not take us any further. As democrats, we must discuss with each other objectively and responsibly and not further fuel negative moods and even spread false information. Even if I repeat myself, this does not make the AfD smaller."