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Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

The interior minister of the south-western German state of Saarland plans to use intelligence tests to find talented refugees and speed up integration.

"We want to start a pilot project that uses intelligence tests to find out where there's talent and what occupational groups we can directly put the refugees in or what we need to teach them," Klaus Bouillon told newspaper Rheinische Post on Saturday.

Bouillon expects 600 to 700 refugees to start the programme voluntarily.

"We're planning to cooperate with the Federal Employment Agency and other renowned labour experts," he said.

German politicians have for some time been mulling ways to integrate migrants into the workplace. But not everyone was impressed by Buillon's idea.

"The suggestion is the completely wrong approach and isn't exactly a sign of intelligent thinking," said Petra Berg, general secretary for the centre-left Social Democrats in Saarland.

She raised concerns that the initiative would reinforce stereotypes and promote a discriminatory selection process.

"Intelligence isn't a statistical matter that can be simply scanned," she added.

Germany received over 1 million asylum seekers last year. The government in Berlin is in the process of introducing a controversial integration law, which would impose sanctions on migrants who refuse take steps to integrate into German society.

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