Merkel allies lambasted for urging immigrants to speak German at home

A woman walks inside the former German army base "Bayernkaserne" which has been converted into a refugee camp in Munich on Nov 20, 2014. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies have issued a call for immigrants to speak German at home,
A woman walks inside the former German army base "Bayernkaserne" which has been converted into a refugee camp in Munich on Nov 20, 2014. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies have issued a call for immigrants to speak German at home, touching off a hailstorm of protest and ridicule on social media Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies have issued a call for immigrants to speak German at home, touching off a hailstorm of protest and ridicule on social media Sunday.

Amid a national debate on integration, the Christian Social Union, one of three parties in Merkel's ruling coalition, drafted a motion saying that foreigners seeking permanent residency "should be encouraged to speak German in public and in private with their families".

The proposal will be debated Monday by CSU leaders ahead of a party conference at the end of the week in Nuremberg.

Yasmin Fahimi, general secretary of the Social Democrats, another party in Merkel's government, blasted the motion saying it had chilling historical echoes.

"The CSU has arrived in Absurdistan. It would be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous," she told German news agency DPA.

"State regulation of what may happen in people's sitting rooms - I thought we had left those times behind us." Merkel's own Christian Democrats slammed the call as backward.

"It's not politicians' business if I speak Latin, Klingon or Hessian at home," the party's general secretary Peter Tauber tweeted.

The proposal even inspired a mocking hashtag on Twitter, #YallaCSU, with users poking fun of the thick Bavarian dialect. It was trending in third place in Germany on Sunday.

"Does Bavarian count as German?" user @GroenieSF asked.

Yalla means "come on" or "let's go" in Arabic and has been adopted in German street slang.

Despite the criticism, CSU general secretary Andreas Scheuer said the party would stand by its motion, calling it "well prepared and widely backed".

The 34-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reported last week that Germany has become the main destination for migrants within the European Union. It is also the world's largest recipient of new asylum seekers.

The influx has not produced the intense backlash seen in Britain and France, where anti-immigration parties have made strong gains.

But it has nevertheless fuelled a heated debate about a failure to integrate into German society groups of immigrants who have in some cases lived in the country for generations.