Germany 'can accept more refugees': Merkel ally
Germany, Europe's top destination for asylum seekers, could take in more refugees, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, against the backdrop of a rise in far-right protests.
"Germany can welcome significantly more refugees. We can and must be able to afford this act of humanity," Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservatives, told the top-selling Bild daily.
He pointed out that Middle Eastern countries shelter proportionally far more refugees, and that in Kurdish areas, "five million people live with one million refugees".
Refugee flows to Europe have risen sharply in tandem with the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Africa. Many have headed to Germany, Europe's most populous country with 80 million people and its top economy.
Last year, asylum requests rose 60 percent to more than 200,000, leaving communities across Germany scrambling to house the newcomers in old schools, public buildings, mobile homes and army barracks.
The influx spawned the emergence of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement in the eastern city of Dresden, where flag-waving nationalists rail against "criminal asylum seekers".
This month a building earmarked to house asylum seekers was set ablaze in the eastern town of Troeglitz in Saxony-Anhalt state, where the mayor recently resigned after being targeted by neo-Nazi protesters.
Another planned refugee centre, near the western city of Duisburg, was defaced with swastikas and anti-foreigner slurs this week.
Several of Germany's 16 states have demanded more federal funds to meet the costs of handling asylum seekers, but Kauder rejected their request, saying Berlin had already raised payments to cities and states by around one billion euros.
The UN refugee agency said last month that the number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries rose by nearly 50 percent last year, driven by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
About 866,000 people applied for asylum in wealthy countries in 2014, marking a 22-year high, said the agency, calling it "the worst humanitarian crisis of our era".
© 2015 AFP