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BERLIN (AP) — Germany's most populous state is tightening checks on security personnel at asylum centers following allegations that private guards repeatedly abused refugees, a senior official said Tuesday.
Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state raided an asylum center in the town of Burbach last week after a local journalist received a DVD showing guards abusing an asylum seeker. Evidence included a picture found on a guard's cellphone showing another guard pushing his foot against the neck of a handcuffed refugee lying on the floor.
Allegations have since surfaced of abuse at two other facilities.
All people deployed to asylum centers by security firms will now have to undergo a police background screening beforehand, state interior minister Ralf Jaeger said a news conference. He also ordered officials to check all 19 major asylum centers in the region for evidence of any possible abuse.
"We will not allow people who have come here seeking shelter from persecution and war to be abused," Jaeger said.
Germany has seen a surge in asylum applications this year, partly because of the war in Syria. Cities and rural communities have been struggling to provide housing for the influx. In recent months, asylum seekers across Germany have been put up in tent cities, former army barracks, retired cruise ships and gyms.
In Berlin, the reception center for asylum seekers was shut temporarily in early September because officials couldn't handle the high numbers of applicants. It has since reopened, with officials setting up an additional container nearby and adding more staff to handle new arrivals.
The government has said it expects about 200,000 asylum applications this year, which would be the highest figure since the early 1990s. Up to the end of August, 99,592 people had sought asylum in Germany, almost 60 percent more than in the first eight months of 2013.
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