450,000 Refugees Expected to Seek Asylum in Germany This Year

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Files of asylum applications sit in a filing cabinet at a Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Berlin March 3, 2015. The government expects the number of people seeking asylum to more than double this year to 450,000, a record for Germany. Axel Schmidt/Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has agreed to double its support this year to federal states and cities struggling with a surge of refugees, but vowed to speed up repatriation of those whose asylum applications are rejected.

The influx of refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, has led to tensions in some regions of Germany and, occasionally, attacks by suspected neo-Nazis.

The government expects the number of people seeking asylum to more than double this year to 450,000, a record for Germany, and had previously promised states and communities 500 million euros ($560 million) in support in 2015.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that the government had agreed in late-night talks with representatives of the states and cities to double this amount, "while at the same time speeding up the processing of those who don't have any prospects (of obtaining asylum)".

The premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, Winfried Kretschmann, said the actual costs for states and cities would be about 7 billion euros this year, but still welcomed the increased federal aid as "an important breakthrough".

Merkel will meet state leaders in Berlin next Thursday to hammer out further details of the agreement, on issues such as speeding up repatriation or deportation of those deemed ineligible for asylum as well as rules for allowing asylum seekers to work and obtain access to German language courses.