Berlin: A record 104,460 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last month, a Bavarian official said on Wednesday, part of an unprecedented wave of refugees and migrants straining the resources of German towns and villages.
Germany, with relatively liberal asylum laws and generous benefits, is the EU`s biggest recipient of economic migrants from southeastern Europe and people fleeing war in the Middle East.
From January to August, some 413,535 people registered on Germany`s Easy system, said a spokesman for Bavarian Social Minister Emilia Mueller.
The Easy system is used for the initial registration of migrants and refugees arriving in Germany. Applying for asylum is a separate procedure. Around one-third of registrations in August were in Bavaria, the spokesman said.
Europe is facing its biggest refugee crisis since World War Two and has yet to find a common response. Thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have died making the perilous journeys by land and sea.
Germany expects about 800,000 people to file for asylum in Germany this year, four times last year`s level.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told German television channel ZDF on Wednesday that Germany could deal with that number this year but a lot of money was needed to deal with the refugee crisis and "for three, four, five, six years, 800,000 is too many, even for a country like Germany".
He suggested opening refugee registration centres in Hungary with the help of U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. Thousands of refugees are arriving in Hungary, and from there many travel on to Germany via Austria.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, deputy head of the conservative parliamentary group, told a German newspaper that the influx was jeopardizing Europe`s passport-free Schengen zone.
"If we don`t manage to secure the EU`s external borders, including the borders with the Balkan countries, nation states will sooner or later take up national measures and then Schengen would be in danger," he said in comments due to be published in regional newspaper Rheinische Post on Thursday.
Towns have been overwhelmed with the new arrivals and want more money to house and care for them. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a fair distribution of asylum seekers within the EU and has also warned against racism after almost daily attacks on shelters.
On Tuesday evening, 40 people suffered minor injuries after a man burst into a refugee shelter in the eastern town of Massow with an irritant spray which caused breathing problems, said police. It was unclear if the attack was racially motivated.
In an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit, de Maiziere said integrating the new refugees could be more difficult than it was for previous groups of migrants, because as many as 20 percent might be illiterate and may struggle to find work.
"Now we will receive hundreds of thousands of Arab Muslims and that is, according to everything my French colleague says, a significant difference in terms of integration," Die Zeit quoted de Maiziere as saying.
Germany is home to some 4 million Muslims, mostly with Turkish backgrounds. Germany has long struggled to integrate its Turkish population, some of whom live in parallel communities where Turkish is the main language.