Germany needs to double its financial support to federal states struggling with a surge of refugees and tougher rules are needed to prevent the abuse of asylum procedures, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian ally said on Sunday.
The comments by Bavaria’s state premier, Horst Seehofer, highlight growing tensions in one of Europe’s richest countries. Germany expects a record-breaking flow of asylum-seekers this year as growing numbers flee conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
“We need a massive increase in funds, the federal government has to do significantly more than hitherto,” Seehofer told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
He said Berlin had promised to increase its support to federal states and cities to one billion euro this year, but that was not enough.
“For the next years, at least a doubling of the funds is necessary. Bavaria is absolutely reaching its limits,” he said.
An interior ministry spokesman said the government was willing to increase funds, adding that Berlin was noting with concern the states’ difficulties in coping with the situation.
Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), defended calls for quick deportations of people from Balkan countries that Germany no longer views as dangerous enough to warrant asylum.
“We should designate more Balkan countries, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia, as safe countries of origin,” Seehofer said, adding that Germany should also lower social benefits for asylum seekers from these countries.
Germany’s migration minister, Aydan Ozoguz, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD), accused Seehofer and other conservatives of “cheap propaganda” at the expense of people in need.
“The talk of deterrence methods and deportation centres in which only minimal standards should be given, that’s a no-go,” Ozoguz told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel .
More than twice as many refugees are expected in Germany this year than the 200,000 who sought shelter last year. Of the more than 85,000 arrivals in the first quarter alone, most came from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over the weekend, volunteers from organisations including the Red Cross began setting up tents for refugees who could not be housed in designated shelters because they lacked space.
In the east German city of Greiz in the state of Thuringia, four refugees from Syria were attacked and slightly injured by a group of young men, police said, adding the three attackers were arrested.
There have also been clashes between far-right protesters against refugee shelters with counter demonstrators in east German cities, with several people wounded.
In a further sign that Germany’s dealings with refugees is becoming a subject of growing public concern, leading magazine Der Spiegel printed pictures of asylum seekers on its front page with the headline: “Hatred of foreigners poisons Germany”.