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Help for helping refugees

September 16, 2015

Chancellor Merkel pledged more federal support to German states responsible for housing tens of thousands of refugees entering the country. Leaders have said they intend to reorganize how refugees are settled in Germany.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge Messehalle in Düsseldorf
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

Even while she is trying to convince other European leaders to agree on mandatory migrant relocation quotas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also met with head of Germany's 16 states to discuss where the migrants in Germany should be allocated.

After meeting nearly four hours with state leaders on Tuesday, Merkel said: "The important thing now is to create an orderly and transparent process to deal with the large number of refugees."

States: We need more money

The state premiers were demanding more help than the 6 billion euros ($6.75 billion) agreed by the governing coalition at federal level more than a week ago. Three billion euros were set aside in the 2016 budget for federal migrant assistance and a similar amount for states and municipalities.

The federal government's KfW investment bank said on Tuesday it had lent 184 million euros (208 million dollars) to local governments in the first week of a massive lending program to rush construction of accommodation for migrants.

Thuringia Premier Bodo Ramelow, a member of the Left Party, said that amount should "at least to be doubled and for the commitments to be speeded up."

Merkel also said the federal government would create 40,000 places for migrants and that distribution centers are to be created. Some 800,000 people are expected to apply for asylum in Germany this year.

"Such hubs are necessary," she said, adding that the country as a whole must provide a massive push to deal with the crisis. Merkel and the state leaders did not reach a decision on where the distribution centers would be located.

Integration key to future prosperity

Rhineland-Palatinate Premier Malu Dreyer said the refugees' integration into German society would be crucial and that the government couldn't handle integration on its own.

"We need a national pact between all the players, not only the federal government, the states and the municipalities, but also business, the trade unions and civil society," she said.

Dreyer also said authorities needed to accelerate their processing of refugees' paperwork. Germany takes five months to process an application while the Netherlands finishes the process 11 days, and Switzerland in 48 hours, she said.

Border controls

Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer echoed her sentiments. As most new arrivals coming from across the Austrian-German border entered there, Bavaria has felt the brunt of the recent wave of refugees entering Germany.

Seehofer, the leader of Merkel's Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), has clashed publicly with the chancellor since she announced a virtual open-door policy at the beginning of the month, a step Germany has slightly backed away from by announcing that it would reinstate border controls on Sunday.

Austria and Slovakia took similar action, pointing to the German measure in justification, and Hungary's controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed Germany's decision, as his country sealed its border with Serbia and announced it would continue building a fence along its border with Romania, which like Hungary is a member of the European Union.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann predicted "that these border controls will run for some weeks or even months."

But his colleague from Rhineland-Palatinate, Roger Lewentz, said that they should be in place "no more than a few weeks under any circumstances."

sms/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)