Possible Merkel successor criticised for saying aslyum seekers should serve a year of community service

Angela Merkel’s party has come under heavy criticism over suggestions that refugees in Germany should undertake a year of low-paid community service.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, General Secretary of the Christian Democrat party (CDU), and a possible successor to Ms Merkel, said the scheme would mean refugees would become better integrated and more accepted by the public.

Marco Buschmann, of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said the CDU just wanted more cheap labour.

“This is a social explosive and would not help to calm the social conflict over integration," he told Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Ulrich Schneider, the chief executive of the Joint Welfare Association, said the idea was "completely absurd,” in comments to the  Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper yesterday, saying language skills would prove a major barrier. 

Germany scrapped compulsory community service, known as zivildienst, in 2011.

Until then, men who refused to join the military for moral or health reasons would have to work in kindergartens, hospitals, elderly care homes, or youth centres.

Many members of the CDU support reinstating the year of civil service, as well as the military draft, Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer said in an interview published on Saturday.

She said it should be extended to both men and women, as well as to asylum seekers and refugees.

The approach is "worth considering," as "refugees who complete such a year, either voluntarily or compulsorily, serve their integration into state and society," Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

"Serving society and the homeland could strengthen cohesion," she said.

Mrs Merkel’s decision to let over a million migrants enter Germany at the height of the migration crisis in 2015 has led to the rise of far-Right groups in the country.

Last year the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party (AfD) became the main opposition party after entering parliament for the first time. 

German officials have so far said there is no immediate plan to reinstate compulsory military service in Germany.