Germany says has financial firepower to cope with refugees

A migrant with fingers painted in the colours of the German national flag at the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept 3, 2015.
A migrant with fingers painted in the colours of the German national flag at the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept 3, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (AFP, REUTERS) - Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble pledged on Tuesday (Sept 8) to use Germany's financial firepower to help welcome a record influx of refugees, as hundreds more asylum-seekers arrived overnight at the key southern city of Munich.

"There is no point speculating at this point what the final total sum will be," Schaeuble told parliament at the opening of a debate on next year's budget.

"Given our strong economy, we have good tax revenues, interest payments are still low, and that goes for the federal government, the regional states and the local authorities, too.

"We have some leeway and with that we can and must cope with and use for the biggest task at hand," he said.

"Accomplishing this task is the absolute priority," added the finance minister.

Germany is gearing up to welcome a record 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times as many in 2014.

Police in the southern city of Munich said about 20,000 migrants arrived at the city's main railway station over the weekend, and another 5,000 arrived on Monday.

Between midnight and 08:30 am on Tuesday, "another 900 arrived," said Thomas Baumann, police spokesman.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that the federal government would contribute six billion euros (S$9.5 billion) for new shelters, extra police and language training in 2016.

Her deputy Sigmar Gabriel has also said that the country was capable of receiving about "half a million (refugees) for several years".

"I have no doubt about that, maybe more," the leader of the centre-left Social Democrats said.

However, Mr Gabriel stressed that other European countries must also accept their fair share as refugees keep fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa and head for the 28-nation European Union.

"We can't just take almost one million people every year and seamlessly integrate them" into German society, he said.

Germany would keep accepting "a greatly disproportionate share" among EU members "because we are an economically strong country, without doubt", he said.

But it was unacceptable for the EU to keep relying on just a few countries, such as Austria, Sweden and Germany, he added, saying that "that's why I am certain that European policy needs to change".