Migrant crisis: Influx will change Germany, says Merkel

Related Topics
media captionThe BBC's Ben Brown reports from Munich: ''The numbers involved here are quite staggering''

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the "breathtaking" flow of migrants into Germany will "occupy and change" the country in the coming years.

She said Germany would speed up asylum procedures and build extra housing, but called on other EU states to help.

French President Francois Hollande said quotas for EU countries to relocate 120,000 migrants were being planned and that France would take 24,000.

Meanwhile, the flow of migrants across Europe shows no sign of easing.

On Monday, large numbers of people were reported to be streaming into Hungary across its southern border with Serbia.

In other developments:

  • The UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years, David Cameron has told MPs
  • Greece has requested emergency EU assistance to deal with migrants arriving from Turkey
  • Spanish media say police fired rubber bullets at migrants in a detention centre in Valencia after about 50 tried to escape
  • Police in Macedonia scuffled with thousands of migrants trying to cross into the country from Greece
  • Hundreds of migrants broke through Hungarian police lines on the border with Serbia and are marching towards Budapest
  • UN chief Ban Ki-moon, in an interview with the Guardian, said the UN Security Council was failing Syria because it was divided on the issue

Migrants find hope in Germany: The BBC's Anna Holligan in Munich

The Heidemannstrasse reception centre - a converted army barracks - is providing temporary shelter to some of the thousands of refugees and migrants hoping to make Germany their permanent home.

We meet two Syrian families who arrived via Austria eight days ago. A pregnant woman and five children were among them. They had arrived in Europe by boat and then walked to Serbia before being driven to Germany in a car.

They had come to the centre looking for clean clothes and a doctor but neither were available.

I asked one of the fathers why he didn't stay in Turkey. He told me: "I have two kids, my wife is pregnant, I can't get work in Turkey, there is no future for my family there. I didn't escape from war to live on the streets."

Germany is offering what many other countries don't - hope.

Thousands of migrants who had arrived in Hungary made their way through Austria to Germany over the weekend. Those arriving at Munich station were cheered by locals.

Mrs Merkel thanked volunteers who had helped and welcomed those arriving, saying they had "painted a picture of Germany which can make us proud of our country".

However, she said that although Germany was "a country willing to take people in", it was "time for the European Union to pull its weight".

media captionGerman, French and British leaders have promised to take in migrants

Germany - which expects 800,000 asylum requests this year - could face costs of €10bn (£7.3bn) next year because of the influx, she added. About 18,000 people arrived in Germany over the weekend.

New quotas drawn up by the European Commission are set to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on Monday (in Spanish) that a total of 160,000 migrants would be resettled, including 66,000 who have arrived in Greece, 54,000 in Hungary and 40,000 in Italy.

Hungary had previously blocked migrants travelling to Western Europe, but dropped restrictions on Friday after struggling to cope with thousands camping in its capital, Budapest.

In a separate development on Monday, Hungary's Defence Minister Csaba Hende announced his resignation. While it is not immediately clear why, some reports suggest it may be related to a delay in finishing work on a fence along Hungary's border with Serbia.

Speaking on Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said "as long as we can't defend Europe's outer borders, it is not worth talking about how many people we can take in".

Those migrants trying to reach Germany were seeking a "German life" rather than physical safety, he said, adding that if the stream continued it would endanger Europe's "Christian welfare states".

The Hungarian parliament last week passed tough new legislation on illegal immigrants.

image captionPeople rest on Hungary's border with Serbia with the new border fence visible on the right

Mrs Merkel has become a hero to many migrants for allowing large numbers to cross into the country from Hungary. But the Bavarian Christian Social Union, a sister party to Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats, have accused the chancellor of sending a "totally wrong signal".

On Sunday night, there were two fires at accommodation centres for asylum seekers in Germany, with police confirming that one was "politically motivated arson".

image copyrightAFP
image captionThere was a fire at a housing site for refugees in western Germany on Sunday night

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.