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Germany struggles to process refugees' asylum applications

Germany's federal refugee office has said it has failed to make a final decision on thousands of asylum applications. It wants to create expedited processing centers to handle over a million asylum requests in 2016.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) said on Friday it is struggling to cope with a backlog of unprocessed asylum applications, despite a clear drop in the number of migrants seeking asylum in January.

Frank-Jürgen Weise, the head of the office, said between 670,000 and 770,000 people who arrived in Germany in 2015 were still waiting for a decision on their asylum requests.

"This situation is unacceptable," Weise said. "It's terrible and unacceptable for the people to have to wait so long."

He added that between 300,000 and 400,000 refugees still haven't even been registered.

Germany under pressure

For the tens of thousands of refugees who have arrived in Germany over the past several months, the process for being granted asylum can be a long and drawn-out affair. First, new arrivals must register with the authorities, after which they're assigned to a specific state based on the country's quota system. Only once they arrive in their designated state can asylum seekers then file their application.

In order to help speed up the process, the office is pursuing plans for new "arrival centers" that will process refugees in less than 48 hours. The government office expects to process over 1 million asylum applications by the end of 2016. That number will include new arrivals as well as the backlog of applications from 2015, Weise said.

In December 2015, BAMF processed some 2,000 applications per day. That's considerably higher than the 600 requests processed daily in January 2015.

Weise also said the department would hire new officers to process applications. At the beginning of 2015 some 2,350 people were employed at BAMF; that number will jump to 6,300 by the middle of 2016 if the office is able to hire as many people as planned.

More than a million refugees have arrived in Germany since the beginning of 2015. However, the number of migrants arriving has dropped over the past month, with around 91,674 people having entered the country since January - about 28 percent fewer than in December.

blc/sms (AFP, dpa)

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