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Germany: East German town nestled in far-right stronghold offers to take in migrants

The German town of Neuruppin is offering to take in refugees again, five years after a huge migrant influx bitterly divided the country.

“We have room for 50 to 75 people,” Jens-Peter Golde, the mayor of the 31,000-strong town, told AFP.

“We are doing well here and we have the possibility (to help) people in need.”

At the height of the EU’s migrant crisis in 2015, Angela Merkel announced that Germany’s borders would not be closed to any refugees, a move hailed as historic by some but blamed by others for the subsequent rise in far-right nationalism.

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The country has since taken in more than one million asylum seekers.

The thorny issue of immigration in Europe has shot to the top of the bloc’s political agenda again, however, after a huge fire destroyed the biggest refugee camp in Greece, in Moria on the island of Lesbos.

Rights activists have urged EU governments to take in the 12,000 people left without shelter in the aftermath of the blaze, again raising the contentious question of how many refugees each country should be responsible for.

Merkel’s government has said Germany is prepared to take in around 1,500 people in all, including some from the burnt-down Moria camp.

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And out of the country’s 2,000-plus towns and cities, some 173 — including 16 in the east — have written to Berlin offering their help.

Mayor Golde said Neuruppin’s experience from five years ago showed that the town could make it work this time, too.

Space used to house asylum seekers back in 2015 was now being freed up as migrants move to more permanent homes. And that meant there was room to take in newcomers, he said.