Over 91K migrants arrive in Germany in Jan

  • 04/02/2016
(Reuters)
(Reuters)

More than 91,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last month, the government said, underlining the pressure the country faces to diminish the influx of migrants.

The Interior Ministry said 91,671 people were registered as asylum seekers in January, compared to 127,320 who arrived in December. Officials have said that winter weather was the driving force behind the decline.

Germany, which has some 80 million inhabitants, has seen more migrants arrive than any other European country.

Nearly 1.1 million came last year and officials are keen to ensure that the figures are lower this year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that diplomacy is the key to a solution, and has resisted pressure for unilateral measures such as a cap on refugee numbers.

However, the government has moved to toughen asylum policies and has gradually toughened its tone. Last weekend, Merkel said Germany expects Syrians and Iraqis to return home when Syria's civil war is over and the Islamic State group is defeated.

Earlier this week, the government approved a package of measures that include using special centers to quickly progress migrants who have little realistic chance of winning asylum. It also means some Syrians may have to wait longer to bring relatives to Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet will also provide tax incentives to investors who build new flats in urban areas, in a drive to tackle a drastic shortage of affordable housing aggravated by a record influx of refugees, officials say.

The government plan is expected to give Germany's booming construction sector an additional push, with building companies such as Patrizia Immobilien and Hochtief among the beneficiaries.

The plan lets investors reduce their tax bills by deducting nearly a third of their construction costs over three years as long as they build new flats in areas where local authorities say the housing shortage is most acute.

To avoid supporting the construction of luxury homes, the tax incentive will be limited to flats with construction costs below €3000 per square metre. Private investors can make tax claims for no more than €2000 per square metre.

The incentive, applicable for flats with a building permit granted between 2016 and 2018, will cost the state more than four billion euros in the coming years and is expected to lead to the construction of up to 100,000 additional flats.

Even before the refugee numbers started to increase sharply last summer, there was an estimated lack of 800,000 affordable flats in urban areas.

This year, nearly 290,000 new flats are due to be built, but experts say this is not enough to meet demand from a growing urban population and the rising number of refugees, meaning that more than 400,000 new flats are needed annually.

In addition to the tax incentives, Hendricks has therefore called for the government to double its funding for public housing to two billions euros per year.

AAP