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Asylum applications to Germany reach a 14-year high

The number of people seeking asylum in Germany has risen to its highest level in 14 years with a jump of about 64 percent in 2013. The figures come amid a spat over the rights of new migrants to claim welfare benefits.

Germany received 127,023 asylum applications in 2013, an increase over the previous year by 64 percent, the country's interior ministry announced Friday in Berlin.

The main countries of origin of asylum seekers were Serbia, Russia, Syria, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.

Out of all the applications, only about 14 percent were approved. However, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, "Compared with other EU member states, Germany had by far the highest number of asylum-seekers in 2013."

The ministry said the rise in applications is based partly on the increase of access from almost all of the top 10 main countries of origin. However, there has also been a general trend of rising numbers of asylum seekers over the past several years.

Out of the 10,915 people granted the status of a refugee under the Geneva Convention, 9,213 of them received so-called "subsidiary protection," including 5,795 Syrians.

The new figures come amid a growing dispute brewing in Germany over the rights of new EU migrants to claim low-income and long-term unemployment social welfare benefits known as Hartz IV.

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed to explore new policies to prevent immigrants from abusing welfare benefits.

hc/slk (Reuters, epd, KNA)

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