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By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ignored the facts with his assertion that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy had resulted in a huge increase in crime, a German minister told Reuters on Tuesday.

Trump said Merkel’s decision to welcome more than a million refugees to Germany was a “disaster” during a campaign rally in Ohio on Monday and said his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton wanted to be like the German leader.

“In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany,” Trump said. “Crime has risen to levels that no one thought they would ever, ever see. It is a catastrophe.”

Statistics compiled by the German Interior Ministry showed the number of crimes reported in 2015 – excluding visa violations and other immigration violations – remained essentially unchanged from the previous year at 5.9 million.

Michael Roth, Germany’s European Affairs Minister, told Reuters Trump’s statement was incorrect and it was important to correct campaign statements in other countries that were based on “fears, lies and half-truths”, given the importance of the U.S. election for the world.

“I’m sorry that the Republican presidential candidate trumpets out things like that without any factual basis,” Roth said.

“If he had studied the actual situation in Germany, he would know that, while the many refugees who came to Germany and Europe pose a big challenge for us, and everything is still not completely resolved, they have not led to a massive increase in crime rates.”

Roth said Germany remained a peaceful country where people treated each other with respect, and efforts continued to integrate the refugees into the broader society and economy.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles at a refugee family as she visits Nizip refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey, April 23, 2016. Bundesregierung/Steffen Kugler/Handout via REUTERS

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