Berlin plays down media report of 1.5 million refugees this year

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Berlin (dpa) – Germany’s Interior Ministry expressed doubts Monday about a newspaper report saying up to 1.5 million asylum seekers are expected to arrive in the nation this year.

The daily Bild reported Monday that the number of migrants mainly from war zones in the Middle East and Africa entering Germany would be almost double the current official forecast of about 800,000. It cited confidential internal government projections for the report.

“The number arriving in September is likely to be very high – the highest in years,” Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns said but added it was not possible to confirm the Bild estimate.

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany surged after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country was ready to accept all refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

“We still assume that the winter months will result in the migration pressure dropping,” Neymanns said, adding that Monday’s talks between the European Union and Turkey could also possibly have an impact on the number of asylum seekers heading to Germany.

In its report, Bild quoted the confidential government projections, which concluded: “Migratory pressures will increase further. We now expect 7,000 to 10,000 illegal border crossings every day in the fourth quarter.”

“The high number of asylum seekers runs the risk of becoming an enormous burden for the states and municipalities,” Bild quoted the report as saying. It predicted the numbers of newcomers would reach 920,000 between October and December, Bild said.

Based on the numbers predicted for the next three months, the report found that about 7.36 million more people would have the right to move to Germany in the future because of their family ties to the refugees, Bild said.

The Bild report is likely to add to tensions in the country about the wave of migrants crossing the German borders with state and regional governments saying they are already overburdened by the number of asylum seekers.

The southern German state of Bavaria, which has been at the front line of the influx, last week estimated that the number of incoming asylum seekers rose to between 270,000 and 280,000 last month. That number would be more than for the whole of 2014.

Frictions have already emerged in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition with Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer and members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) having criticized her stance on the refugees, calling on her to admit Germany’s capacity to handle the newcomers had been reached.

Seehofer is also leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is the CDU’s Bavarian-based associate party.

The political tensions have also coincided with signs of a shift in the mood in Germany.

After the initial warm welcome, the mood in Germany towards the asylum seekers has become more subdued a series of negative reports about violence in overcrowded asylum homes.

As a result, Merkel’s once high popularity ratings have slumped with surveys pointing to growing concerns among voters about the influx.

A poll published last week by German state broadcaster ARD showed that support for the chancellor has dropped 9 percentage points to 54 per cent while support for Seehofer had jumped 11 percentage points to 39 per cent.

Last month, Merkel reimposed border controls and now is talking about the need for a more orderly process to deal with the new arrivals while ramming through parliament measures to send failed asylum seekers home.

But Merkel has also repeatedly refused to place an upper limit on the number of refugees entering Germany and rejected on the weekend fresh calls from the CSU to change the nation’s law requiring it to take in all asylum seekers.

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