August 11, 2015 / 4:43 PM / 2 years ago

German minister expects far more than 400,000 asylum seekers this year

A migrant girl plays with balloons as the newly arrived migrants wait in front of the State Office for Health and Social Affairs to apply for asylum in Berlin, Germany August 11, 2015.Stefanie Loos

DEGGENDORF, Germany (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Tuesday that far more asylum seekers would arrive in Germany this year than the 400,000 first-time applicants his ministry had previously expected.

He said the interior ministry was preparing a new forecast that would soon be published, adding: "I have to prepare the German public for the number (of asylum seekers) being considerably higher than we estimated so far."

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has predicted that the number of first-time and subsequent asylum applicants will climb to 450,000 this year - more than double the 2014 figure.

Germany has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, in part a response to its Nazi past when 500,000 Jews and others persecuted by Adolf Hitler's regime fled the country.

But tensions have flared as Germany struggles, along with the rest of the European Union, to cope with the growing numbers of refugees fleeing war and violence in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

There were 150 arson or other attacks that damaged or destroyed refugee shelters in the first six months of 2015.

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Gareth Jones

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