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Sharp drop in migrant arrivals in Germany

13:53 12 January 2017 Author :  

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany last year has dropped by two-thirds to about 280,000. Berlin said the decrease signals that measures to reduce migration are working.

Some 280,000 migrants arrived in Germany last year, a stark reversal in numbers after the country received nearly 890,000 refugees during the 2015 migration crisis, according to year-end government figures released on Wednesday.

"Developments show managing and controlling migration have been successful," Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere said in announcing figures compiled by the Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

In the spring of last year, the Balkan route used by migrants to reach Europe was closed and the EU-Turkey migration deal reducing crossings across the Aegean went into effect, significantly reducing the number of new arrivals in Germany.

But the number of first asylum application applications rose to 745,500 last year, including from those people who arrived in 2015 but did not formally apply for protection until 2016.  In 2015, 477,000 asylum applications were received.

Of those applications, the government made around 700,000 decisions, more than five times more than in 2014. The increase signals German authorities have increased their capacity to process asylum applications after coming under criticism for bureaucratic backlogs in 2015.

Favorable decisions

Top 10 countries of origin for asylum applications in 2016 ENG

Some 62 percent of all asylum applications in 2016, or about 434,000 people, were decided favorably.

Syrians remain the most common country of origin for asylum applications, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea.

Significantly, the number of migrants from Balkan countries dropped significantly as the German government made clear citizens of countries such as Albania and Kosovo had little chance of receiving permanent residence.

The year-end numbers are likely to bring a sigh of relief to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election in September at a time when migration and security are the top of the national agenda.

Germany's open door policy in the fall of 2015 initially won Merkel praise, but as the influx tested European unity, she has had to partially backtrack on her commitment.

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