BERLIN/MUNICH (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said refugees streaming into Europe should not be able to choose where to settle, as authorities said thousands more were on the move across the continent on Sunday.
Germany, Europe’s largest and richest economy, has been a magnet for many people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Police said around 13,000 migrants arrived in Munich alone on Saturday, and another 1,400 on Sunday morning.
In an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, de Maiziere said refugees given protection in Europe should accept that they will be distributed across the bloc.
“We can’t allow refugees to freely choose where they want to stay - that’s not the case anywhere in the world,” he said.
“It also can’t be our duty to pay benefits laid out in German law to refugees who have been allocated to one EU country and then come to Germany anyway,” he added.
Interior ministers from the EU’s 28 member states are meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss proposals from the EU’s executive Commission to redistribute about 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.
Authorities in neighboring Austria said they were expecting thousands of new arrivals on Sunday - many in the past have headed straight on to Germany.
Tensions are rising in Germany, where states have complained about the growing burden of coping with Europe’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
German EU Commissioner Guenter Oettinger told newspaper Welt am Sonntag that Germany should reduce benefits for asylum seekers to reduce the numbers coming across its borders.
“Payments to asylum seekers in Germany need to be adjusted so that there is a certain rapprochement to the payments in other EU countries,” he said.
“We need a certain harmonization of the cash benefits for asylum seekers in Europe because if the difference within the EU, it could create the wrong incentives,” he added.
German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn is reserving one long-distance train from Munich to Berlin on Sunday for asylum seekers, Christoph Hillenbrand, senior administrator of the Upper Bavaria district around Munich, said.
From Monday several hundred seats will be reserved for refugees on several regular train services from the Bavarian capital, he said, adding that there would also be special train services to North Rhine-Westphalia and northern Germany on Monday to free up some emergency accommodation in Munich.
Since Aug. 31 around 63,000 refugees have arrived in Munich and Hillenbrand said the city could not continue taking in such numbers. Around 1,400 refugees arrived on Sunday morning.
“It’s not feasible for us to take in the equivalent of a small town’s population every day. It’s simply not doable logistically anymore,” he said.
While a new tent city was set up to accommodate several thousand overnight, several dozen spent the night in sleeping bags at the station.
De Maiziere said Germany, which has, since last weekend been temporarily ignoring European rules that state migrants must register for asylum in the first EU country where they arrive, needed to quickly return to “orderly procedures”.
But he said Germany needed to prepare itself to deal with “a very high number” of refugees in the long-term. Some are pretending to be Syrian in the hope of getting asylum, he said.
Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrew Heavens