German government to spend extra €6bn to cover cost of refugees
The German government agreed early Monday to spend an extra €6bn to cover the cost of the expected record influx of refugees this year.
€3bn will be added to the federal budget and a further €3bn will be given to states and local governments.
Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's external broadcaster, reports that Simone Hilgers, a spokeswoman for the government of Upper Bavaria, said some 8,600 people had arrived at Munich's main train station since Sunday morning. Hilgers said Munich was well prepared for the new arrivals but that the state needed help to meet the challenge of caring for the migrants. "Munich and Bavaria can't manage it alone," Hilgers said on Sunday. Bavaria "needs the support pledged by other [German] states."
Hundreds of local people in Munich welcomed the refugees, mainly from the Syrian civil war. DW says that most of the people who had arrived in Germany over the weekend had traveled via Austria from Hungary following an arduous trek after Budapest temporarily halted trains bound for Germany and Austria. In Munich alone, some 7,000 refugees were registered on Saturday evening, with more than half of them provided with a bed for the night. Trains also brought refugees to other cities in Germany.
The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavaria-based sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), has criticized the chancellor's decision late on Friday to temporarily open up Germany's borders to thousands of migrants who had been stranded in Hungary.
DW says that the mass-circulation "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper reported in Sunday's edition that Horst Seehofer, Bavarian state premier, and other CSU leaders had agreed in a conference call on Saturday that Merkel's green light to ease the entry of the people wanting to seek asylum in Germany, many of whom have fled conflict zones in Syria or Iraq, was a "wrong decision by the federal government."
"In such an unusual and dramatic situation, it is absolutely right to grant people refuge," Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary floor leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel's other coalition partner, was reported to have said. "Germany must defend the values that make Europe so livable, In exceptional circumstances, this includes helping people in need when according to the rules, others were actually responsible."
According to a report in the Sunday edition of German newspaper, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAS), the costs could rise to between €9 and €10.5bn by the end of the year. The figure is based on cost estimates from local governments around the country.
A refugee summit held by the German parliament in July budgeted €5.6bn for an expected 450,000 asylum applications this year. In light of the recent mass influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, however, Germany is now expecting to take in some 800,000 by the end of December. DW said that according to Germany's federal statistics office, €2.4bn was spent on caring for some 203,000 new asylum seekers last year.
At municipal level, the current annual cost per refugee stands at between €12,000 and €13,000, which covers accommodation, meals, pocket money, health costs and administrative expenses. "Although not all asylum seekers will stay in Germany for the whole year, FAS reported that further costs of around half a billion euros must also be taken into account for the expense of additional teaching positions, and administrative roles at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Talks are also underway to increase Germany's police force numbers," DW said.
The Financial Times reports that European Commission officials are debating a proposal that would allow some EU countries to pay money in order to opt out of a mandatory quota system for accepting refugees, in a plan that could ease a stand-off between eastern and western members over how to relieve Europe’s migrant crisis.
The FT says some eastern states have balked at being forced to accept mandatory numbers, under a plan to divide 160,000 migrants across the region to be announced on Wednesday by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. They argue that voluntary targets allow member states to provide better care to people looking to settle in Europe.
“We are ready to share the burden and take responsibility, but only if we have control over the situation,” said Poland’s minister for Europe, Rafal Trzaskowski.
Pic above: Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and Mariano Rajoy, Spanish prime minister, take a stroll through the woods at Meseburg castle, the German government’s countryside guest house north of Berlin, 1 Sept 2015.