BERLIN (AP) — More than 202,000 people applied for asylum in Germany last year, the interior minister said Wednesday, with large numbers coming from war-torn areas in the Mideast and Afghanistan.
The figures represented a 60-percent rise compared to 2013, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced them as the country grapples with how to integrate newcomers.
It was the third highest number of asylum seeker applications ever recorded, de Maiziere said in a statement.
The ministry said the agency processing asylum requests and local communities had been receiving financial support to help deal with the high numbers of new arrivals.
Cities and rural communities have been struggling to provide housing for the influx. In recent months, asylum seekers across Germany have been put up in tent cities, former army barracks, retired cruise ships and gyms.
In Berlin, the reception center for asylum seekers was shut temporarily in September because officials couldn't handle the high numbers of applicants.
Meanwhile, protests against new asylum homes have increased across the country with demonstrators trying to prevent refugees from moving into their neighborhoods.
Big crowds attending weekly rallies in the city of Dresden by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, have also been outspoken in their rejection of asylum seekers.
In the 1990s, Germany received even higher numbers of refugees who were escaping from the wars in Yugoslavia.
In 2014, about 41,000 people, or 20 percent of all asylum seekers, were Syrian refugees and they usually were granted asylum. About 30 percent came from the Balkans region — their applications were generally rejected because "they didn't fulfill the needed requirements."
Among the 202,834 applications, 173,072 people applied for refugee status for the first time, while the others had applied previously. Only 127,023 applied in 2013.