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1ST LEAD New asylum seeker numbers in Germany fall sharply in 2017 By Andrew McCathie, dpa

Europe
16.01.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - The number of new asylum seekers in Germany fell sharply in 2017 as Berlin stepped up efforts to curb refugees attempting to enter the country.

Last year 186,644 people were registered in Germany as asylum seekers, down from 280,000 in 2016, and significantly lower than the 890,000 who had sought refuge in the nation in 2015, the Ministry of the Interior said on Tuesday.

The drop in numbers came after Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s controversial decision in September 2015 to open Germany‘s border to allow about 1 million refugees escaping wars in the Middle East and Africa to enter the nation as part of the global refugee crisis.

"The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is no longer dealing with the consequences of the crisis," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on releasing the data.

"Rather, the BAMF has now turned its attention to future tasks," he said, including ensuring that the migration and refugee authorities operate better than before the crisis.

Deportations from Germany fell to about 26,000 last year from around 28,000 in 2016.

The country, however, deported last year 60 people considered to represent a threat to society, said de Maiziere.

Germany‘s refuge crisis overshadowed September‘s election, contributing to a plunge in support for Merkel‘s conservatives and a consequent rise in support for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The political tensions unleashed by the crisis have now resulted in Merkel and the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) drawing up a blueprint for a possible new coalition, which includes limiting the number of refugees entering the country to between 180,000 and 220,000 a year.

Merkel‘s conservative bloc and the SPD are also considering measures to restrict the number of family reunions for refugees already living in Germany.

With 47,434 applications, the largest number of asylum seekers was from Syria, which is the grip of a near seven-year bloody civil war.

The next biggest group was from Iraq with 21,043 seeking asylum in Europe‘s biggest economy, followed by Afghanistan with 12,346.

Almost 8,000 applicants were from Turkey where authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a crackdown on his political opponents.

 

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