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More than one million migrants registered in Germany in 2015: newspaper

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will have registered just over a million migrants by the end of the year, a regional newspaper said on Wednesday, roughly in line with the latest predictions but still about five times more than last year.

Migrants sing the traditional German christmas carol "Oh christams tree" during a Christmas gathering, organized by local relief organization "Die Johanniter", with christmas presents for the children at the refugee camp in Hanau, Germany, December 24, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Europe’s biggest economy, a magnet for migrants partly due to generous social benefits, is taking in more refugees from the Middle East and Africa than any other EU state, but authorities are struggling to house the dramatic influx of migrants.

Citing unpublished government figures, the Saechsische Zeitung reported that the authorities expect about 125,000 asylum seekers to have registered on Germany’s EASY system in December, down considerably from 206,000 last month.

That brings the overall figure to 1.09 million people.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry declined to confirm the numbers which will be available in early January but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement the numbers were falling slightly.

Germany’s 16 federal states plan to spend about 17 billion euros to deal with the refugee crisis next year, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity has waned as a result of her open-door policy, with some of her own conservatives, especially in Bavaria which is the entry point for many seeking asylum, seeking a cap on numbers.

In a speech to her party this month she sought to silence critics by saying she would stem the flow of refugees..

De Maiziere said that creation of an orderly processing of refugee applications meant the situation was improving and that authorities were working hard to register and accommodate refugees.

Merkel’s government is putting measures in place to speed up deportations of those refused asylum. It is also pushing other EU countries to take more migrants and working with Turkey to ensure fewer people come to Europe in the first place.

But de Maiziere rejected demands by Merkel’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria to ban migrants from entering Germany unless they have valid identity papers.

“Regarding the CSU demands to send back refugees without valid identity papers, no further changes are planned,” he said.

Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Richard Balmforth