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Germany to receive up to 800,000 refugees

August 19, 2015

German authorities are bracing for a record-breaking number of refugees, with mass arrivals potentially continuing for "several years." Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has urged EU partners to do more to help.

Deutschland Rosenheim Grenze Österreich Turnhalle Lager Asylbewerber
Image: DW/K. Brady

The German government estimates that up to 800,000 people could request asylum in the country by the end of the year, Interior Minister de Maiziere said Wednesday.

This would make 2015 a record year for asylum applications in Germany.

"This is a challenge for us all," de Maiziere said. "We all need to make an effort. But the burden is not too heavy for Germany. We will take care of it."

Refugees from the Balkans

Other European countries should take a more active role in dealing with the influx, the German interior minister stressed.

"Germany cannot, on a permanent basis, take on 40 percent of all refugees that arrive in Europe," de Maiziere said.

"Tomorrow, I will consult my French colleague in Berlin about the way forward," he added.

Germany should, however, adjust itself to the higher number of refugees "for the next few years," the minister said, as there were no indications that applications for asylum would let up soon.

In addition to refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40 percent of asylum applicants in 2015 have come from countries such as Kosovo, Albania and Serbia , according to the minister.

"This is unacceptable and a disgrace for Europe," he said.

Record numbers in July

The number of migrants entering Germany has increased sharply this year, with over 37,500 people applying for asylum in July alone, the Interior Ministry announced earlier on Wednesday.

The July numbers set a new monthly record for the country. There were also tens of thousands more refugees who entered Germany in July, but did not submit their asylum application in time to be included in the statistics, interior ministry officials said.

Some 218,000 people have entered Germany in the first seven months of 2015, which is more than in all of last year, according to the Interior Ministry.

'Shame' of Europe

Europe has "failed miserably" in its policy toward migrants, according to German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

"It is a shame that many countries inside the EU do not want to take in any refugees, or only accept a small number of them," he told the German-language Rheinischen Post newspaper.

Although a leading economic power in the EU, Germany is struggling to provide housing for asylum applicants. The temporary housing facilities can only accommodate 45,000 people, with officials estimating they would soon need to triple their current capacity.

"We must avoid confronting the cities with a choice between caring for refugees and renovating a school or financing a swimming pool," Gabriel said, adding that such a choice be would "disastrous" for attitudes toward migrants.

Speeding up to cut costs

Faced with the latest statistics, the representatives of German states have demanded more financing from the government.

"The federal government should say, very quickly, how they will contribute to the cost of refugee care, in a long-lasting and structural manner," North Rhine-Westphalia State Premier Hannelore Kraft told the German news magazine "Der Spiegel."

"We don't have any time to discuss the issue for months," she added.

According to Kraft, the government should ease the burden placed on local officials and "significantly speed up" processing of asylum applications.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)