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Germany to expedite asylum applications, expand migration centers

Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of Germany's states have agreed upon faster processing of refugee's applications for asylum. More migration officers will be appointed, but plans are still too hazy at the moment.

Angela Merkel and representatives from eight German states discussed dealing with an impending refugee crisis on Friday after the country's migration authorities said

they expected around 450,000 asylum seekers this year.

A majority of refugees applying for asylum with Berlin came from the West Balkans, including Albania, Serbia and Kosovo and from conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East. Many of these applicants waited for several months before they had a proper status allowing them to live and work in Germany.

Faster processing

"We want to speed up the process so that decisions can be made and executed within weeks," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters. Those coming from war zones such as Syria and Iraq were likely to be granted asylum and integration assistance much earlier. The average time for processing refugee applications would be reduced to around three months from the current five-month period.

The federal government was also planning to create 2,000 new jobs to speed up the processing of asylum applications out of which 750 of these positions would be filled up this year. This would enable authorities to filter out requests from regions considered ineligible for asylum, such as the Balkans.

Dresden Pegida Demonstration

Thousands of PEGIDA members have demonstrated against the surge of migrants

No details on financing

Although the federal government promised that asylum seekers with an option of staying long-term in Germany would have access to integration courses - to familiarize them with German language and culture - there were no indications of how states would finance these activities. There were also no concrete plans on building residential areas and setting up health support systems for refugees. These were expected sometime in June this year.

The German government, until now, was responsible only for funding asylum applications. Individual states had to pay out of their own treasuries for refugees' maintenance and housing. Berlin's officials injected one billion euros for the current year and 2016, but states maintained that the amount was not enough to deal with the unprecedented wave of foreigners.

Focus on policy reform

Over 200,000 foreigners sought refuge in Germany last year, leading to tensions in some regions where suspected Neo-Nazis attacked immigrant shelters. Thousands of citizens supporting the anti-Islam group PEGIDA also marched against the influx of migrants, leading Merkel's government to seriously think of measures to integrate refugees and pacify its voters.

Germany, together with other EU member states, was also involved in reforming the bloc's policies for refugees, which include

introducing a quota system for distributing asylum seekers evenly across the group's countries

. Berlin has also begun participating in rescue missions in the Mediterranean after more than 1,500 migrants sank off the African coast while trying to cross over to Europe.

mg/bw (Reuters, dpa)

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