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'High' asylum benefits need review: minister

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'High' asylum benefits need review: minister
Immigrants at a reception center for asylum seekers in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA.
12:51 CEST+02:00
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière wants to scrutinize how much asylum-seekers receive in benefits in Germany as the country continues to face a staggering influx of immigrants.

De Maizière said that many of his European colleagues believe Germany's standards for asylum-seeker benefits are very high.

"We need to have a debate about the standards of human dignity and benefits," De Maizière told broadcaster ZDF's evening news programme.

The Interior Minister said that more than 40 percent of asylum-applicants in Germany come from west Balkan countries - some of which have recently been declared "safe" by the federal government, meaning asylum can't be granted for their citizens - and have no chance of being granted refugee status.

The amount asylum-seekers legally receive in benefits is equal to a police officer's salary in Kosovo or Albania, he added.

But these benefits cannot be arbitrarily reduced. The Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that social assistance benefits - known as Hartz IV - constitute a fundamental right that also applies to asylum-seekers.

"With regards to benefits, we can also still do something that protects human dignity," De Maizière said.

He added that country must be prepared for a much higher number of refugees than previously expected, though he would not yet give an estimate.

"How high the prediction is, that is something we will discuss with the states and next week I will tell the public," the minister explained.

De Maizière's own family are descendants of Huguenot Protestants, who fled from France in the 17th century to seek asylum in Prussia due to forced Catholic conversions in France.

'No time to lose'

Various state and local leaders have called for radical reforms to the country's asylum policies.

"The unbridled increase of the streams of refugees with possibly 600,000 people this year shows that we urgently need to reform the organizational, staffing and financial resources from scratch," Gerd Landsberg, Chief Executive for the Association of Cities and Towns, told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Friday.

"We have no time to lose. We especially need to replace the emergency tent facilities with solid structures as soon as possible, before the winter comes."

Germany receives the most asylum seekers of any country in the European Union with 300,000 new applicants since January 2015.

Debate has worn on among politicians and refugee assistance programmes about how best to handle the growing population.

The country's second-largest police union called on Tuesday for the reintroduction of European border controls as well as extra personnel.

The Schengen Agreement, implemented in 1995, abolished passport controls in the now 26-country Schengen Area in Europe.

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