January 10, 2014 / 3:04 PM / 6 years ago

Asylum applications to Germany hit 14-year high

Syrian refugees walk down the corridor at the 'Friedland' refugee camp in the central German village of Friedland September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of people seeking asylum in Germany rose by around 64 percent in 2013 to a 14-year high of 127,023, the interior ministry said on Friday.

The main countries of origin were Serbia, Russia, Syria, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.

“Compared with other EU member states, Germany had by far the highest number of asylum-seekers in 2013,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. He added that only around 14 percent of applications were approved.

A row is brewing in Germany over the rights of new migrants, particularly from EU member states Romania and Bulgaria, to claim welfare benefits. Many Germans are also frustrated that they have had to foot much of the bill for the euro crisis.

Separate figures released this week showed Germany had the highest level of net immigration in 20 years in 2013.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to explore new policies to stop immigrants abusing welfare benefits.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Andrew Roche

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