BERLIN — The German government pledged on Tuesday to provide more support to towns and villages struggling to house more than 1.1 million refugees and migrants who have arrived in the country this year, mostly from war-torn Ukraine, but also other countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. .
After meeting with state and local officials, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that while the government had already allocated federal real estate to tens of thousands of refugees earlier this year, it would provide immediately additional goods to approximately 4,000 refugees to alleviate the current housing crisis. Faeser also pledged financial support but gave no concrete numbers.
Several cities have recently begun setting up tents and turning convention centers into temporary accommodation as centers for regular migrants have become overcrowded.
“I don’t want to minimize this, we have a tense situation,” Faeser told reporters in Berlin. “That’s why we discussed today how best to coordinate our aid to the refugees… also in view of the winter months ahead of us.”
More than a million people have entered Germany from Ukraine since Russia attacked the Eastern European country on February 24. About a third of them are children and adolescents, and more than 70% of adults are women.
“It’s a big humanitarian effort to take good care of the refugees from Ukraine, to provide shelter, to provide day care and schools for the children and to give them social support,” Faeser said. She added that Germany expected more refugees from Ukraine as Russia intensifies its brutal attacks on Ukraine and that locals may find it even harder to survive the cold winter months.
While the Minister of the Interior stressed that Germany was ready to welcome more Ukrainians despite the difficult housing situation, she took a noticeably different tone regarding asylum seekers from other countries, especially those trying to reach Germany via the so-called Balkan migration route.
“The number of asylum applications has increased in recent months, as has the number of unauthorized entries. Not only in Germany, but globally along the external borders of the European Union, the pressure is currently increasing,” said Faeser. “That is why we must also clearly ensure a limit.”
At the end of September, 134,908 people had applied for asylum in Germany in 2022. This is around a third more than in the same period last year, according to figures from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. However, the appeal is still a long way from 2015-2016, when over a million migrants from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan sought asylum in Germany.
The figures for asylum applications in 2022 are much lower than the total number of refugees because Ukrainians can enter Germany without a visa and do not need to apply for asylum.
In order to prevent further migrants from entering the country, the interior minister said that Germany will extend and increase its border controls towards Austria for another six months and will also intensify controls towards the Czech Republic .
The move comes after Austria and the Czech Republic introduced temporary border controls in Slovakia last month to prevent migrants from entering their country.
Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all belong to the European Union’s visa-free Schengen zone, where residents of member countries can generally cross borders without presenting a passport or visa. However, Schengen countries have adopted temporary border controls in the past for various reasons, including curbing illegal migration and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Germany has also sharply criticized Serbia – which is an EU candidate country but not yet a member – for its visa-free regime with some non-EU countries. Indian citizens, for example, increasingly fly to Serbia, where they don’t need visas unlike EU countries, and then try to cross to wealthier Western European countries via the Balkan route. .
“To be clear, Serbia’s visa practice is unacceptable,” Faeser said. “This also contributes to movements on the Balkan route. Serbia needs to adapt its visa rules to those of the European Union. This is a clear expectation of the German government.”
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