Germany braces for thousands of new migrants

2015-09-01 19:46
Migrants arrive in Germany from Budapest. (AP)

Migrants arrive in Germany from Budapest. (AP)

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Berlin - The southern German state of Bavaria pleaded for aid from the rest of the country on Tuesday as it became the latest beachhead in the epic arrival of African and Middle Eastern migrants in Europe.

Trains full of migrants who have made it to Greece and then through Eastern Europe on the so-called Balkan Route have begun arriving in Germany - the country many of them wanted to reach in the first place.

Even though the arrivals had been expected and Germany has committed itself to taking in 800 000 migrants this year, the arrival has still come as something of a shock.

"Bavaria cannot handle this all by itself," said the state's social affairs minister, Emilia Müller, on Tuesday. "The numbers of arrivals of asylum seekers is exploding."

She said the state had grown used to about 2 000 arrivals a day of late. Now the city of Munich by itself was seeing about 1 500 arrivals a day. Efforts have already begun to distribute those who have made it across Bavaria, to spread the costs.

One state, Baden-Württemberg, has already pledged aid. Talks are also ongoing with railway officials to see what options there are for allowing migrants to initially travel on to other parts of Germany.

Social spending

German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles said on Tuesday that the flood is creating the need for more funding for social spending and programmes to integrate migrants into the workplace as she requested an additional $2bn to $3.7bn for such spending.

Based on Nahles' projections, there will be between an additional 240 000 and 460 000 people in Germany in need of benefits in 2016. That number could rise to 1 million by 2019. Of the 2016 figure, up to 335 000 might not be able to find work or to work at all.

"We will benefit from this," said Nahles. "The people who are coming to us as refugees should quickly be turned into neighbours and colleagues.

"By no means are all hirable refugees trained members of the work force," she added. "But they are full of motivation and the need to work. We are going to do something with this drive and this desire to perform."

Officials are bracing for even more migrants in the coming days. Officials in Salzburg, Austria, reported up to 2 000 migrants reportedly on their way to Germany after spending a night in the train station there, a police spokesperson told the APA news agency.

Train station shut

In Budapest, officials shut one of the city's main train stations amid the press of migrants, leaving about 5 000 migrants with nowhere to go.

In the Czech Republic, about 200 migrants were pulled off trains as they sought to make their way to Germany, according to police. Many of them were Syrians and were taken to temporary shelter in the cities of Breclav and Hodonin.

The new prompted former Czech president and regular EU critic Vaclav Klaus to argue that it was time for Europe to stand up and argue that there is no human right to immigration.

"If Europe wants to engage in suicide by letting countless numbers of refugees in, then it should do so, but not with our support," he told the newspaper MF.

But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the crisis is showing the need for a concerted European response.

"When it comes to the question of immigration into Europe, if we don't manage to show the ability to be a little more able to negotiate across the country, then we are going to once again see even more resistance among the population," he said during a German-Spanish economics forum in Berlin.

Common response

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined Chancellor Angela Merkel in stepping up calls for a common European response, with the German leader demanding that Italy and Greece follow EU protocols and register asylum seekers who first arrive on their territory.

"The criteria have to be discussed," said Merkel, who stressed the need for registration centres in Italy and Greece to deal with new arrivals.

She said this would help to establish a common classification of safe countries as well assisting with developing the procedures for the possible return of refugees to their home countries and creating a fair distribution of the asylum seekers among the EU states.

"The EU needs solidarity," said Rajoy at the joint press conference with Merkel. "We have to develop asylum and immigration laws. We have to find an answer," he said, echoing comments by the chancellor.

Read more on:    germany  |  migrants

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