More German troops helping refugees than deployed abroad: ministry
Some 6,000 German soldiers have been mobilised on the home front to help manage a mass influx of refugees and migrants -- more than the number of troops deployed abroad, the defence ministry said Wednesday.
With Germany the top European destination for people fleeing war and poverty, expecting up to a million asylum seekers this year, the country's military has stepped in to lend a hand to overwhelmed cities and towns, the ministry said.
"Helping refugees is becoming an important additional task for soldiers in the German military," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
More than 6,000 soldiers are working full-time in more than 80 projects across the country, compared to roughly 2,900 Bundeswehr troops in operations overseas including in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Turkey, the ministry said.
Hundreds more will be sent part-time to perform specific tasks across Germany's 16 federal states, such as building reception centres and transporting people and supplies.
The military had until now been called in as a stop-gap measure to help communities inundated with asylum seekers and often reliant on volunteers to provide services.
Von der Leyen said that the military's assistance would now be long-term and intended to receive, house and feed newcomers in a "professional" manner.
She noted that the military was working with the UN refugee agency UNHCR to provide housing units that allow families a degree of privacy in the large hangars and gymnasiums where many are housed.
© 2015 AFP