A record 800,000 asylum seekers and refugees are expected to arrive in Germany this year, four times as many as last year and more than double the number forecast in January, the government has said.
Germany, which has criticised its European Union partners for not doing more to help people fleeing war, violence and poverty in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, had received 218,221 asylum applications by the end of July.
“We’ve got to reckon there will be 800,000 people coming to Germany as refugees or seeking asylum,” said the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, who only three months ago raised the original 300,000 forecast to 450,000.
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“It will be the largest influx in the country’s post-war history,” De Maizière told a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, adding that Germany should expect high numbers for years to come.
“It’s a challenge for all of us at the state, federal and local levels,” he said. “We can master this challenge. I don’t think this will overwhelm Germany. We can handle this.”
Migrant numbers across the EU have shot up in recent months. Many undertake dangerous sea voyages to reach southern Europe, then make their way across the continent to countries where they hope to make a life for themselves.
Germany has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, in part a response to its Nazi past when 500,000 Jews and opponents of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich fled the country. After the second world war, Germany took in 13 million displaced persons and refugees fleeing west from eastern Europe when the region came under Soviet domination.
United Germany’s previous biggest annual intake was 438,191, in 1992, when it received large numbers of refugees fleeing conflicts resulting from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. A year later the German parliament changed the constitution to impose stricter rules on asylum, and numbers sank to a low of 28,000 in 2008 before they started climbing again.
Along with a shortage of lodgings in cities including Berlin, Munich and Hamburg, Germany struggles to process applications, which can take more than a year. There have been arson attacks and protests in Germany against the rising numbers of migrants.
As well as refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, there has been an influx of asylum seekers from countries such as Albania and Serbia. Almost half of those who reached Germany in the first half of the year came from the Balkans, many of whom will be sent back.
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