A regional chief of the German far-right AfD party has accused German churches of making "billions of euros per year" from the refugee crisis. The claim follows a report that German Catholic churches in Bavaria are sheltering refugees the state wants to deport under religious asylum laws dating from the Middle Ages.

Bavarian AfD leader Petr Bystron said: "This phony public image of reaching out to refugees is also financing a gigantic charity industry under the organizational roof of the churches." He wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on Wednesday (25 May).

More than a million refugees entered Germany in 2015, many Muslims fleeing the Syrian civil war, with churches playing a leading role in providing shelter, food and counselling services.

The Catholic Church in Germany, which is holding its annual conference in Leipzig, reacted furiously to the claims, Deutche Welle reported.

"We reject the poorly thought-out comments from Mr Bystron," German Conference of Bishops spokesman Matthias Kopp said. "It is jabbering unsupported by a single fact that does little to contribute to a proper discussion."

Bystron claims that churches welcome refugees because it brings in larger donations, but Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch said that churches were stretching their already thin resources to help the refugees.