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At a press conference today, Dr Thomas de Maizière, the Federal Minister of the Interior, informed the public on the updated forecast regarding the number of asylum applications expected for the whole of 2015. Before he did so, the minister had already briefed the heads of the State and Senate Chancelleries at state level on the new database concerning the development of refugee numbers in Germany.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior expects up to 800,000 asylum applicants and refugees to arrive in Germany this year. This would be four times as many people as last year.
The fact that the expected number of persons asking for asylum in Germany is approximately twice as high as in the spring forecast is essentially due to the unforeseeable and dramatic increase in the number of new arrivals since June and July 2015. In July alone, almost 83,000 persons arrived in Germany, while the number for the cur¬rent month of August is expected to be even higher.
In contrast to previous forecasts, the current database includes not only the number of asylum applications filed but the significantly higher number of people who actually arrived in Germany. The difference between these numbers arises primarily from the fact that the states often transfer asylum applicants to the municipalities before they are given an opportunity to file an asylum application with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF); this accounts for a significant delay in the filing of the applications. According to the BAMF statistics, there are currently some 100,000 persons who are already in Germany and have not yet filed an asylum application but intend to do so.
This development is not expected to slow down any time soon. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, migration across the Aegean Sea and the Balkans has increased significantly, resulting in a drastic deterioration of the situation in Greece. Second, there is no indication of positive developments in the migration-relevant conflict regions of the Middle East, in the Horn of Africa and North Africa. And ultimately it takes time for the necessary EU approaches aimed at controlling migration flows (such as reception centres in Greece and Italy, support for the transit countries in Africa and in the Balkans) to become fully effective.
In view of the growing number of refugees arriving in Germany the Federal Minister of the Interior said that this was a
"challenge to all of us who bear responsibility at federal, state and local level." In order to jointly address this challenge, a joint coordination staff composed of Federal Government and state representatives will take up its work next week. This body will strive to achieve agreement on all issues that are relevant in this context to the extent that they do not concern legal amendments.
The minister made it quite clear that Germany must prepare for the influx of refugees to continue at a high level even in the future. He said that the time had come to break new ground, to develop pragmatic solutions and to put an even stronger focus on Europe.
In this context, Federal Minister de Maizière made it clear:
"Every refugee who comes to Germany must be respectfully received and given safe and decent accommodation. Everyone is entitled to a fair procedure and has the right to expect that he or she will not be attacked or insulted in Germany. Hatred ... [and] attacks on accommodation centres for asylum applicants bring discredit upon our country. We will respond with the utmost rigour to such attacks."
The minister pointed out that by speeding up the asylum procedures and by increasing the staff of the BAMF important steps had already been taken to deal with the challenges resulting from the influx of refugees. He continued to say that work was underway to expand the capacities of the initial reception centres and improve accommodation facilities at state level.
In this context, the Federal Minister of the Interior also gave a clear commitment to increase federal support for the municipalities:
"The Federal Government has committed itself to provide, as of next year, sustainable, structural and dynamic support in particular to the municipalities in order to relieve the burden they have to bear. Deci¬sions on this matter are to be taken already in the month of September."
Finally, Federal Minister de Maizière emphasized the central role which Europe has to play in managing the influx of refugees. He said that Germany would release neither its European partners nor the European Commission from their responsibility. He recalled the principle of European solidarity and insisted,
"We have to push forward with the reform of the Dublin system so as to share burdens fairly in Europe with fixed admission quotas. In the long run, there can be no Schengen without Dublin .... In the absence of a genuine European asylum policy, borders without border checks will not be viable in the long run."