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Migrant crisis: Germany sees massive drop in asylum seekers

Germany says 280,000 asylum seekers arrived there in 2016, a drop of more than 600,000 on the previous year.

The German interior minister said that the decrease was due to the closure in 2016 of the Balkan route and the migrant deal between the EU and Turkey.

The record influx of 890,000 people came as migrants and refugees travelled through Greece and the Balkans.

They headed for Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered a temporary open-door asylum policy.

Her decision to suspend EU rules on registering asylum seekers in the first EU state they entered was aimed at the growing number of Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, but large numbers of people of other nationalities made the journey too.

Migration has become a heavily politicised issue in Germany ahead of federal elections in the autumn. As voters punished her CDU party in regional polls last year, Mrs Merkel acknowledged that the migrant crisis could have been handled better.

“This shows that the measures that the federal government and the EU have taken are taking hold,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. “We’ve been successful in managing and controlling the process of migration.”

He was referring to the EU’s deal with Turkey to halt the influx of migrants and refugees into Greece, as well as the decision by Balkan countries to close off the route towards Western Europe.

The total number of asylum applications in 2016 was in fact almost 270,000 higher than 2015, at 745,545, the interior ministry said. However, the majority of claims involved people who had arrived the previous year.

Syrians made up 36% of the asylum claims in 2016, followed by Afghans, Iraqis, Albanians, Iranians and Eritreans.

Germany has rejected asylum requests from Albania, describing it as a “safe country”, and has been deporting Afghan arrivals. The government said late last year that increasing numbers of asylum seekers were returning to Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Of the record 695,733 asylum decisions made by the interior ministry last year, 256,136 (36.8%) were awarded refugee status under the Geneva Conventions and a further 153,700 given subsidiary protection, which means their status in Germany is initially temporary. BBC News

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