OREANDA-NEWS German opposition leader Friedrich Merz has apologized for accusing Ukrainian refugees of taking advantage of his country’s social welfare system by seeking protection in Germany, gaining benefits and then returning to Ukraine.“Far be it from me to criticize refugees from Ukraine, who are facing a hard fate,” he added, a day after his “welfare tourism” remarks during an interview with Bild TV were criticized by Twitter users on Monday.

Merz also told Bild TV that that “a large number” of the Ukrainian refugees registered in Germany were, in fact, milking the state, referring to “a problem here that’s getting worse.”Germany has taken in almost one million refugees from Ukraine since Russia launched its special military operation in the country on February 24. The refugees are allowed to get a special status that entitles them to certain social benefits, medical care, accommodation, and access to integration courses.In a separate development this week, Wojciech Bakun, the mayor of the Polish city of Przemysl located near the Ukrainian border, wrote on Facebook that some Ukrainian refugees were engaged in an “organized system of extorting social benefits”.“Then, in an organized transport, they return to Ukraine,” the Przemysl mayor added.He bemoaned the fact that Poland, which is grappling with about four million Ukrainian refugees, has no instruments to prevent their behavior, wondering why Warsaw hasn’t yet noticed the problem of “draining the Polish social assistance system.” Unlike Merz, Bakun preferred not to extend apologies for his remarks.The Polish media outlet Kresy earlier reported that many Ukrainian refugees leave Poland for almost 30 days but then return before that deadline in order to keep their status in the Eastern Europe nation.