Muslim women in burqa face veils
Muslim women in burqa face veilsSerge Attal/Flash 90

German lawmakers on Thursday approved a partial ban on the full-face burqa Islamic veil, AFP reported.

The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties.

The prohibition will apply to public servants -- including election officials, military and judicial staff -- performing their duties.

"The state has a duty to present itself in an ideologically and religiously neutral manner," says the text of the law passed by the lower house in the evening and quoted by AFP.

The move comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel recently stated that "the full burqa is not suitable here" and added that she would initiate legislation against it.

Several European countries have moved to ban the face-covering niqab and full-body burqa in recent years.

France was the first country to do so, having introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010.

A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa as well. Italy has drafted a similar law.

In November, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament voted to enforce a ban on burqas and niqabs.

More recently, Austria’s coalition government announced a plan to ban Muslim face-covering veils.

Germany has since 2015 taken in more than one million migrants and refugees, most from predominantly Muslim countries.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the social integration of immigrants requires "that we make clear and communicate our values and the limits of our tolerance to other cultures".

The ban on full facial coverings allows exceptions -- for example, for health workers protecting themselves against infections or police officers concealing their identity, noted AFP.

People can also be required to remove facial coverings in order to match them with their identity papers.