Germany sees sharp drop in asylum seekers

Germany: 280,000 new migrants last year, far lower than 2015

BERLIN — Germany saw about 280,000 new asylum-seekers arrive last year, less than a third of the previous year's huge influx of 890,000, the interior minister said Wednesday.

While new arrivals declined, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that the number of rejected asylum-seekers who left Germany was up — though still not to authorities' satisfaction. In total, 80,000 people either left voluntarily or were deported, he said.

Arrivals declined sharply with the closure of the Balkan migrant route in March and the subsequent agreement between the European Union and Turkey to stem the flow across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Asylum applications have lagged well behind arrivals and many people who came to Germany in 2015 applied only last year.

Wednesday's figures showed that 745,545 formal asylum applications were made last year — 268,869 more than in 2015. Those included 268,866 applications from Syrians, 127,892 from Afghans and 97,162 from Iraqis, the biggest single groups by far.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which has been beefed up in the course of Europe's migrant crisis, decided last year on more than 695,000 asylum applications, more than twice as many as in 2015. Nearly 60 percent of applicants were granted either full refugee status or a lesser form of protection.

De Maiziere said that about 55,000 migrants returned home voluntarily last year, compared with the previous year's 35,000. Another 25,000 were forcibly deported.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces a national election later this year and still draws criticism for her welcoming approach to migrants in 2015, has promised a "national effort" to ensure that people who aren't entitled to stay go home.

The number of returns is still too low, de Maiziere said, adding that talks are underway with state authorities — who are responsible for returns — to push it up.

© The Associated Press. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Germany sees sharp fall in asylum seekers

The number of asylum seekers entering Germany fell by about two thirds last year but the proportion of rejected applicants who left remained low, the government said Wednesday, raising fears that criminals or extremists may remain in the country.

The influx of migrants from war-torn or poor economic regions has raised security concerns, particularly after last year’s terror attacks in Germany. In December, rejected asylum seeker Anis Amri killed 12 and left scores wounded.

Government data showed that roughly 280,000 people entered Germany last year in search of asylum, down from a record of about 890,000 in 2015. But only 80,000 left Germany either voluntarily or were deported.

“The development of the asylum figures show that the German government’s measures have an effect. We have succeeded in regulating, steering the number of people coming to us,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. However, the number who left was too low, given the number of rejected asylum claims, he said. “We are in talks with the states to further increase the number of these returnees.”

The number of filed asylum claims, which lags behind the number of newly arrived migrants, rose to 745,545 in 2016 from 476,649 in 2015. The biggest group of applicants came from Syria, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and more than half received asylum or refugee status.


Number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany slumped by two thirds last year following the closure of the Balkan route

Germany has seen a dramatic drop in new asylum-seekers with 600,000 fewer arriving in the country last year, figures released by the interior ministry on Wednesday show.

About 280,000 new asylum-seekers arrived in the country last year, less than a third of the previous year's huge influx of 890,000.

Arrivals declined sharply with the closure of the Balkan migrant route in March and the subsequent agreement between the European Union and Turkey to stem the flow across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

While new arrivals declined, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that the number of rejected asylum-seekers who left Germany was up — though still not to authorities' satisfaction.

In total, 80,000 people either left voluntarily or were deported, he said.

Asylum applications have lagged well behind arrivals and many people who came to Germany in 2015 applied only last year.

Wednesday's figures showed that 745,545 formal asylum applications were made last year — 268,869 more than in 2015.
Those included 268,866 applications from Syrians, 127,892 from Afghans and 97,162 from Iraqis, the biggest single groups by far.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which has been beefed up in the course of Europe's migrant crisis, decided last year on more than 695,000 asylum applications, more than twice as many as in 2015.

Nearly 60 percent of applicants were granted either full refugee status or a lesser form of protection.

The agency has also cut the average time required for an asylum decision to under three months, and introduced a nationwide database to combine identity records for all asylum-seekers.

De Maiziere said that about 55,000 migrants returned home voluntarily last year, compared with the previous year's 35,000. Another 25,000 were forcibly deported.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces a national election later this year and still draws criticism for her welcoming approach to migrants in 2015, has promised a 'national effort' to ensure that people who aren't entitled to stay go home.

De Maiziere rejected the suggestion that the drop in new arrivals was the result of Europe's efforts to prevent people reaching the continent, but acknowledged that Germany was working to ensure refugees stay in their home region.

Meanwhile, rising numbers of migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia are ending up homeless in sub-zero temperatures in Serbia with more arriving from Bulgaria as countries further along the so-called Balkan corridor to western Europe tighten their borders.

Serbian authorities and international agencies are unable to house all the newcomers, with about a fifth of the almost 7,000 sleeping rough in Belgrade city centre or at the border with Hungary, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

'We are concerned that the migrant crisis has not abated and there are things we cannot influence,' Serbia's minister for labour, employment, veterans and social policy, Aleksandar Vulin, said in December.

Although the Balkan route used by hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing conflict to reach western Europe has been made far more difficult in the past year, with countries tightening border controls or erecting fences, loopholes remain, including a fairly porous boundary between Serbia and Bulgaria. 

As well as the Balkan route closure, in March 2016 an EU-Turkey deal to tackle the migrant crisis formally came into effect.

The 28-nation EU and Turkey deal sees Turkey make sure to stem the flow of migrants into Europe in return for billions of euros to take care of them there.

Under the deal, migrants arriving in Greece are now expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected.

However, Turkey and the EU have been at loggerheads about Turkey's security crackdown since a failed coup in July.

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