BERLIN — The German government proposed measures Wednesday to tighten migration regulations for citizens from elsewhere in the European Union amid accusations of welfare abuse by poor immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet was proposing a six-month limit on EU citizens staying in the country, which is Europe's biggest economy, without a job. In addition, he said EU citizens suspected of having abused Germany's welfare system can be banned from re-entering the country.
"Freedom of movement is an essential part of the European integration, which we fully stand behind," de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin. "However, that does not mean we should close our eyes to the problems that come with it."
He said the new regulations were similar to those adopted by other EU countries.
De Maiziere said poor EU citizens have tended to go to certain regions of Germany, exacerbating problems there. To help alleviate them, he said the government was setting aside some 25 million euros ($32.9 million) this year for cities that are especially affected by so-called poverty migration.
Scores of reports have highlighted the plight of immigrants in certain areas like Duisburg in western Germany, where immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, many of them Gypsies, live in deplorable conditions and with few prospects of finding work.
Dozens of people often pack into small apartments in dilapidated tenement buildings without running water or electricity. City officials have complained about garbage-strewn streets and rat infested apartment blocks and appealed to the federal government for support.
In addition to pledging financial support for the affected cities, the government also said it planned to clamp down on employers taking advantage of those poor EU citizens, often hiring them illegally for hourly wages of only one or two euros.
The proposal still needs parliamentary approval, though Merkel's coalition has a wide majority.