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Germany expects record 800,000 asylum requests in 2015

AFP PHOTO/DPA/ULI DECK/ GERMANY OUT | Refugees wait on August 18 in front of a temporary reception center in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Germany expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, a new record, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday, as he urged action from the European level on the crisis.

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"This development is a challenge for us all," de Maiziere told reporters as he announced the new official estimate.

Berlin had previously expected 500,000 asylum-seekers to arrive this year.

Germany, the EU's most populous country and top economy, has struggled to accommodate a flood of asylum-seekers from war zones such as Syria but also from countries without military conflict in southeastern Europe, including Albania, Serbia and Kosovo.

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Sunday that the asylum issue could become a bigger challenge for the European Union than the Greek debt crisis and urged a coordinated approach from Brussels.

De Maiziere also made a strong call for the EU to take action.

"We need short-term, mid-term and long-term solutions here and in Europe," he said.

Figures also published Wednesday by the interior ministry show that the number of asylum requests have risen steadily in Germany.

In July, applications rose 5.1 percent from June to 34,384 but nearly doubled from the number one year ago.

For the seven months to July this year, Syrians topped the list of asylum seekers, with 44,417 applications filed, almost three times that of the same period last year.

But it is the applications from the Balkans, which make up a significant chunk of demand, that have proved most controversial.

De Maiziere had complained last Thursday that it was "unacceptable" that 40 percent of a record wave of asylum-seekers in his country were from the Balkans, calling it "an embarrassment for Europe".

Germany has in recent days started airing public service announcements on TV in Balkans countries urging people to stay home and stressing that if they leave for economic reasons, they have almost no chance of political asylum.

(AFP)

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