Germany expects number of asylum seekers to double in 2015

Thomas de Maizière [NEXT Berlin/Flickr]

The German government expects nearly 400,000 asylum applications by the end of the year – more than double the number in 2014 – while internal affairs minister Thomas de Maizière announced new measures amid shocking statistics on xenophobic violence. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) considerably increased its estimate for the number of asylum applications in 2015.

On Wednesday (6 May), the Internal Affairs Ministry confirmed reports of 400,000 new applications by the end of the year. In July or August, the BAMF could even announce a higher number, explained Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière in Berlin.

The centre-right politician indicated the difficulty in predicting the changing number of asylum applicants from the Western Balkans, saying “that is a key measure”.

In the first three months alone, half of all asylum applicants from the Western Balkan states came to Germany, he pointed out.

De Maizière said that forecasts are also shaky concerning the number of refugees that will cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Around one-third of them end up in the Federal Republic and submit an asylum application there, he stated. But de Maizière could not say whether a new quota system in the EU could alter this trend.

On Friday, de Maizière is scheduled to meet with his colleagues from Germany’s state governments for a refugee summit. “We have a new situation and must correspondingly take up new measures,” the CDU politician indicated.

The BAMF is pushing for the categorisation of Kosovo and Albania as so-called “safe countries of origin”, de Maizière explained. In this way, he said, the applications of asylum seekers could be processed in an expedited procedure and the individuals concerned deported faster.

The announcement was met with harsh criticism from human rights organisations. The refugee rights NGO PRO ASYL fears further erosion of the right to an individualised asylum procedure.

Participants at the refugee summit should pledge their support for a stronger commitment to accepting refugees, the NGO said.

Germany must be prepared to take in more refugees than other EU states, explained the organisation. After all, the biggest communities of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees (in Europe) are in Germany, and refugees must be given the opportunity to seek shelter where their families and relatives are, PRO ASYL argued.

>>Read: Upsurge in refugees may cause Germany to ‘push its limits’

Among EU member states, Germany remains the most popular target country for asylum seekers. In 2014, Germany processed 172,945 first-time applications, according to Eurostat, followed by Sweden (74,980), Italy (63,000), France (57,000) and the United Kingdom (31,070). With the population of each state factored in, Sweden topped the list by a long way.

Still, most of them flee to neighbouring states or refugee camps in their own state. As a result, Pakistan took in 1.6 million refugees in 2013.

The number of internally displaced persons increased by 11 million, according to information from international organisations released on Wednesday. That amounts to an average of 30,000 every single day, reaching a new record of 38 million people.

Acts of violence against minorities increased 25%

On Wednesday, the German Internal Affairs Minister also announced the numbers for politically motivated acts of violence. The increasing number of anti-Semitic crimes reached a new record high at 1,596 cases. De Maizière called the trend “very troubling”. In comparison, there were 25% more xenophobic attacks compared to the previous year, he pointed out.

“This development is concerning and must be stopped,” the Internal Affairs Minister warned.

Attacks on asylum and refugee shelters experienced a considerable increase in 2014.

203 offences of this kind were recorded, compared to 58 in 2013, predominantly motivated by right-wing extremism.

Right-wing extremists were responsible for 175 of these attacks.

On Tuesday evening, there was another case of arson against a planned residence for asylum seekers. Unknown assailants set fire to a settlement of mobile homes in the town of Limburgerhof, near Ludwigshafen.

Plans were to place 16 refugees there within a short time, said State Interior Minister Roger Lewentz on Wednesday, in Berlin.

At the beginning of April there was an arson attack on a planned refugee shelter in Tröglitz in Lower Saxony.

Reacting to the violence, Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced concerns over Germany’s reputation being tarnished.

Since 1999, the EU has been working to create a Common European Asylum System to deal with immigration for political or humanitarian reasons.

New EU rules have now been agreed, setting out common standards and co-operation to ensure that asylum-seekers are treated equally in an open and fair system – wherever they apply.

But EU countries rejected a European Commission proposal for more shared responsibility in dealing with asylum requests and that immigrants arriving in the countries with a disproportionate share should be relocated to other EU member states.

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