Germany aims to halt the flow of 'economic refugees': Flood of asylum-seekers brings call for tighter border controls

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The Independent Online
BERLIN - Rudolph Seiters, Germany's Interior Minister, called for rapid constitutional change yesterday after his ministry announced a record 46,500 people had applied for asylum in July, Adrian Bridge

Describing most of the applicants as economic rather than political refugees, Mr Seiters said that the sheer numbers of people coming made it impossible for Germany to do more for the thousands fleeing from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

He then urged the liberal Free Democrats and opposition Social Democrats to drop their objections to constitutional changes that would enable Germany to turn back those ineligible for asylum at the borders.

'If we were able to stop the flood of economic refugees we would be able to do much more for those fleeing from war,' he said. 'Their need for temporary accommodation is far greater than that of other refugees.'

The number of asylum applications in July was more than 10,000 higher than the previous record of 35,100 in March and 15,000 up on the 31,000 registered in June.

It brought the total number of asylum-seekers to Germany this year to 233,000 - just under the 256,000 in the whole of last year. Although nearly 11,000 of those coming in July were from the former Yugoslavia, the highest number (13,700) came from Romania.

According to the Interior Ministry, of the 132,000 applications that have been processed so far this year, only 5,700 have been granted asylum.

Despite complaints from nearly all the German Lander (regional states) that there is no more space for newcomers, Germany is set to receive a further 5,000 refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina later this week.

The regional authorities in Saxony-Anhalt, meanwhile, announced yesterday that 42 orphans from Sarajevo had safely arrived in Zerbst, which is near Magdeburg.

Relief at their arrival was muted, however, by the grief over the death of two of the children, who were killed by sniper fire as their coach sought to leave Sarajevo over the weekend.

It was also overshadowed by the continuing dispute over who was responsible for ordering the coach to embark on the journey against the advice of United Nations representatives on the ground.

Officials of the Saxony-Anhalt government insist that the decision was taken only after gaining the approval of the German Foreign Ministry. Spokesmen for the ministry in Bonn, however, say that the opposite was the case and that they advised caution until the UN gave the all-clear.

According to some Bonn sources, the administration of Saxony-Anhalt sought the speedy evacuation of the children in order to ensure that their spare capacity to house orphans was used and that they would therefore receive more public funding.

(Photograph omitted)