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German housing minister asks for 1.3 billion for refugees

Barbara Hendricks has petitioned the government for a new budget to help integration and house migrants. As a new report painted a bleak picture for Germany's economic future, her success remained uncertain.

Germany's Federal Housing Minister Barbara Hendricks joined the ever-louder cabinet chorus in Berlin on Friday by calling for a drastic increase in the budget for asylum seeker accommodation and city development projects. The Social Democrat (SPD) lawmaker called for 1.3 billion euros ($1.46 billion) in extra funding for these areas.

"I want to prevent competition from arising between natives and refugees for housing," Hendricks said, in quotes carried by newspapers within the "Funke Mediengruppe" media organization. "Whether integration is working or not will be decided in our cities and towns," she added, saying that affordable housing for all was one of the most important prerequisites for success.

According to the reports, the billion euros currently budgeted for such projects was already doubled to a billion euros for the time period from 2016 to 2019.

Labor minister seeks half a billion

Hendricks' call followed a similar one by her fellow SPD cabinet member Andrea Nahles, who heads the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. On Thursday she

petitioned the government for nearly half a billion euros

to create jobs for asylum seekers whose applications are accepted. In a speech announcing her request, Nahles warned of the risks - both for refugees and natives - of long term unemployment.

"So far, people have had to sit around with nothing to do for 12 months at a time," she said. "This creates tension for everyone. We must act as quickly as possible." Such a move, Nahles said, was only possible with the support of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of the Christian Democrats (CDU).

She warned, however, that the funds should not come from those set up to help the long-term unemployed German natives.

"We cannot take away from the long-term unemployment funds. Otherwise, it creates predatory competition, stoking fears, instead of reducing them," she told "Zeitung der Funke Mediengruppe," on Thursday.

Schäuble may prove to be an unwilling partner, however, as German media reports on Friday claimed to have a copy of the minister's new long-term financial analysis. The report, set for full release in Sunday's Welt am Sonntag paper, reportedly painted a bleak picture in the eurozone, and at home. According to the press, the national debt could increase to 200 percent of GDP by 2060, more than the current level of debt in Greece and nearly three times the current level in Germany.

es/msh (KNA, EPD, Reuters)

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