- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BERLIN (AP) - A thousand refugees may be sleeping outside in Berlin each night because authorities in the German capital are overwhelmed with the sharp rise in asylum-seekers this year, an activist group said Wednesday.

The problem is compounded by bureaucratic rules that prevent more refugees from being placed in private apartments, the Berlin Refugee Council said, urging authorities to increase the housing allowance for refugees.

Because the city’s refugee centers are full, authorities have given about 1,800 people vouchers for private hostels in recent months, though only about 600 hostel places are available, the group said.

More than 3,400 refugees have arrived in the city so far in July, three times as many as during the same month last year, authorities said.

“Accommodating these people poses a huge challenge for Berlin,” the city’s Department for Social Affairs and Health said in a statement, adding that every effort was being made to ensure that all new arrivals get a place to stay.

Berlin’s problems are reflected across the country. The federal government estimates that the number of asylum applications in Germany could surpass 500,000 this year, compared with about 200,000 in 2014.

The German army has recently made available eight barracks to house refugees, and the national Red Cross society has built 21 emergency accommodation centers. This includes eight “tent cities’” with space for 4,600 refugees.

The president of the German Red Cross, Rudolf Seiters, said in an interview published Wednesday that the tent sites would have to be closed in October, when falling temperatures make them unfit for habitation.

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