Germany: Refugee numbers dropped dramatically in 2017

186,644 asylum seekers were registered last year. That’s more than 100,000 down from the 2016 figures – the Germany Interior Ministry says the massive numbers from the height of the crisis have been “overcome.”

German Interior Minister Lothar de Maizière announced the figures in Berlin on Tuesday (16 January) showed that the waves of refugees arriving in Germany continue to recede.

The Federal Agency for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF) registered 186,644 asylum seekers in 2017 compared to approximately 280,000 the year before and far fewer than the peak of 890,000 in 2015.

Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, said that refugees particularly from the Middle East and Afghanistan remained a general European problem. But he added that, for now, the greatest influx was past for Germany.

“The crisis of the extremely high figure of 2015 and 2016 has been overcome,” deMaizére said.

“The BAMF is no longer is occupied with trying to master the crisis,” the Interior Minister added.

This is welcome news to the political parties in power. The asylum seeker numbers were below that of the cap of 200,000 upon which many conservatives have insisted. That should alleviate some of pressure on the issue as conservatives seek to hammer out a deal for a coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Numbers of refugees arriving last year in Germany from the crisis regions of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were all far lower than in 2016. Maizière said that this was in part due to the closing of the Balkan and Mediterranean routes previously used by many migrants to get to Europe.

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Maizière added that the BAMF had worked through the backlog of people who applied for asylum in previous years. He said that German authorities were also far better able to determine asylum seekers’ true identities thanks to forensic examination of refugees’ mobile phones and dialect recognition software.

BAMF president Jutta Cordt dismissed reports that the majority of legal challenges to her ministry’s decisions on asylum were decided in favour of refugees. She said most asylum cases were either won by the government or rendered moot, for example, because the asylum seeker had voluntarily decided to return home.

Maizière said that the German government would continue to fight human traffickers and that he hoped the number of asylum seekers would continue to decline in 2018. He said one priority for the coming year was to integrate those migrants with a right to remain in Germany into German society.

© DW

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