Documents cast doubt on Fischer's statements

7th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 April 2005, BERLIN - Statements by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that visa problems at the German embassy in Ukraine had been swiftly resolved were put in doubt on Thursday by documents showing diplomats warning about abuses through 2004.

7 April 2005

BERLIN - Statements by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that visa problems at the German embassy in Ukraine had been swiftly resolved were put in doubt on Thursday by documents showing diplomats warning about abuses through 2004.

The scandal, which has already forced the resignation of a deputy German foreign minister, involves hundreds of thousands of visas apparently issued to Ukrainians posing as tourists who in reality planned to work illegally in Germany - including in the booming prostitution business.

Fischer insisted last month that the problems linked to issuing visas had been cleared up "step by step by early 2003."

But documents obtained by ARD TV quote three German diplomats at the embassy in Kiev, who complained in March 2004 that each staff member processing visa applications had to decide up to 200 cases a day and were able to spend "two minutes per application."

The Kiev embassy's visa section chief, Regina Mittner-Robinson, is quoted as saying in February 2004 the old problems remained.

"The number of people surreptitiously obtaining visas continues to be large," Mittner-Robinson told ARD.

A member of a parliamentary probe investigating the affair, Hellmut Koenighaus, an opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP) member, confirmed the ARD documents were authentic.

Fischer, who has been summoned to testify by the probe on 25 April, set up a programme liberalising the issuing of visas to eastern Europeans as well as to people from some states in the Middle East and Asia.

The loosened-up procedures for handing out German visas lasted from 2000 until 2003, when the programme was abruptly cancelled after widespread abuse.

DPA

Subject: German news

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