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Germany

Germany grapples with record number of illegal refugees

Crises and conflicts all over the world have led to a rapid rise in the number of refugees to Europe in general - and Germany in particular. But many of these people enter the country illegally.

Germany is struggling to cope with the greatest surge of illegal immigration since unification in 1990.

With more than 57,000 identified cases in 2014, the number of illegal immigrants in Germany reached a record high, German authorities said on Wednesday. In fact, it's a 75 percent increase on the year before, German Federal Police President Dieter Romann told Germany's dpa news agency.

The number of people "coming across the southern border has more than tripled, while the number coming through the western border has doubled," Romann added. Most illegal immigrants enter Germany from Austria and France.

27,000 illegal refugees were detained in Germany. Almost 30,000 were stopped in their native country or a transit state before they managed to reach German soil, Romann said. States of origin included Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Serbia and Somalia.

"Illegal immigration, alongside the threat of international Islamist terrorism, is the biggest challenge currently facing the German police," Romann said.

The statistics mirror the crises and conflicts in the world, Karl Kopp of the Pro Asyl refugee organization told DW, but he blasted Romann's choice of words as highly "populist and insensitive" in the face of the ongoing debate about racism in Germany. Syrians, Eritreans and Afghans shouldn't even be in this statistic, he said, as they approach the Federal Police upon arrival and are clearly in need of protection.

Highest rate of asylum-seekers

The police also arrested some 2,100 human traffickers in 2014 - an increase from 1,535 the previous year.

The Federal Police have stepped up cooperation with neighboring states to prevent illegal entry into the country:.Together, German, Italian and Austrian police patrol cross border trains en route from the Mediterranean. The route from the Balkans is monitored by Hungarian, Austrian and German officers.

Serbian Police detain refugees from Kosovo

Serbian police stop Kosovars trying to cross the border to Hungary - and thus the EU

Refugee status defined by EU law

In response to a spike in illegal migration from Kosovo - their asylum requests are futile and not accepted in Germany -, German federal police officers help their Serbian counterparts check departures to Hungary, Romann said, pointing out that the German Federal Police deal with between 200 and 300 identity checks of illegal immigrants every day.

The current European asylum regime is "malfunctioning, with few member states (Germany, Sweden, Italy, France, and the UK) hosting the overwhelming majority of refugees," said Steffen Angenendt, a senior associate at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). "It is now time for a debate on the distribution of responsibility considered fair by all EU states."

According to the UNHCR, Germany continues to be the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications.

In just a few months' time, new EU directives to help streamline EU asylum policies - the CEAS common asylum system - are scheduled to come into force. They include rules on the process of application, reception conditions and the grounds for granting asylum, but according to Pro Asyl's Europe analyst Kopp, "they will have no impact on the refugee crisis in Europe."

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