Germany’s local governments have called on the government and businesses to do more integrate refugees by helping them get into the job market.

According to Gerd Landsberg, head of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), nearly 600,000 refugees were claiming unemployment benefits in Germany in mid-2017, some 250,000 more than at the same point in 2016,

Just under 200,000 refugees, meanwhile, had found jobs and had begun to pay social security contributions.

“The figures show that we still have massive efforts to make until we have integrated refugees into the labour market,” Landsberg told the Funke Media Group, before adding that Germany was stuck in “fixed integration patterns”.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Landsberg’s comments were backed up by Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Gabriel, former leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), said it was crucial that local authorities weren’t faced with a decision between housing refugees and, for instance, renovating a public swimming pool.

“On this basis the municipalities should decide for themselves how many refugees they take in,” he said. “That way we can prevent people getting the impression that everything is being done for refugees and nothing for them.”

Gabriel also suggested that the European Union could step in to organise a continent-wide plan to promote refugee integration. “The EU could implement a programme to help finance municipalities in poorer member states,” he said – in other words, countries would be rewarded for taking in more refugees.