Germany to take in additional 5,000 Syrian refugees

Photo: Germany to take in additional 5,000 Syrian refugees / Arabic region

Germany announced on Friday its intention to take in an additional 5,000 refugees from war-torn Syria, doubling the contingent agreed by the country's interior ministers earlier this year, dpa reported.

"Millions of people have been forced to flee Syria as a result of the civil war," said Boris Pistorius, interior minister for the state of Lower Saxony, after a ministers' meeting in the north-western town of Osnabrueck.

"We mustn't simply avert our eyes. Instead, we should show solidarity in the face of this humanitarian crisis by offering an amount of aid that corresponds to our capacity as a nation," a statement quoted him as saying.

The agreement, which was struck on Thursday during a meeting of representatives from Germany's 16 federal states, drew criticism from rights groups and opposition politicians.

Pro Asyl, a refugee aid organization, said that an additional 5,000 refugees was still far too little. The group's chief executive Guenter Burkhardt described the outcome of the ministers' meeting as "an unsatisfactory result of heartless haggling."

Opposition politicians including Green Party parliamentarian Anton Hofreiter also said the number was too low, and urged the government to lower immigration hurdles for Syrian refugees with family members already living in Germany.

The country's previous pledge to accommodate 5,000 Syrian refugees, which was agreed in September, has faced significant bureaucratic hurdles. Only 1,700 Syrian have actually arrived in Germany, with the majority flying in from Lebanese transit camps where conditions are chaotic.

It has been estimated that 23,000 Syrian have made their way to Germany independently of the government's official resettlement programme.

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