BERLIN (AP) — Germany could see as many as 800,000 migrants arriving in 2015, the country's interior minister said Wednesday, four times the number last year and 300,000 more than previously estimated.
Thomas de Maiziere told reporters that more than 360,000 have flooded in to Germany to date in 2015, including a new record of 83,000 in July that he predicted would be broken in August as the flow continues to increase.
He said temporary housing is already in short supply, and that the country is working on solutions for that as well as other issues on the local, state, federal and European levels. Germany has room for 45,000 people in temporary facilities while awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications but estimates it needs at least 100,000-150,000 places to cope with the influx.
"We are all challenged, but Germany is not overwhelmed with these developments," he said.
Because of the influx, de Maiziere said it is taking longer for new arrivals to apply for asylum but that government agencies involved had received "massive increases" in personnel and would receive still more in order to speed up the process.
The country is also looking at differentiating between refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the roughly 40 percent of asylum applicants who come from the Balkan countries and could be sent home quickly if they cannot prove need for asylum.
Through the end of July, Germany received 218,221 asylum applications, an increase of nearly 125 percent compared to the same period last year.
Germany remains the top destination for refugees, receiving 43 percent of all asylum applications in the EU, de Maiziere said, adding Europe has to come up with a better way to share the burden.
"Germany cannot take 40 percent of all of the asylum seekers forever," he said.