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Germany

Number of Asylum Seekers Increases in Germany

The number of people applying for asylum in Germany rose last year by more than 12 percent.

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Last year nearly 90,00 people applied for asylum in Germany

According to reports released this week by the German Ministry of the Interior, 88,287 people sought asylum in Germany during 2001. That’s an increase of 9,723 applicants or 12.4 percent more than were recorded in the previous year.

The year 2000 saw a record 13-year low in asylum seekers when the number or requests from refugees in the Balkan wars declined dramatically. But still, between 1990 and 2000, Germany received over 43 percent of asylum applications to the European Union.

The high number of asylum seekers has always been a hotly debated political issue in Germany. But the sudden jump in last year’s asylum applications couldn’t have come at a more fitting time: back in December, the Social Democrats (SPD) presented a proposal for reforming immigration.

Interior Minister Otto Schily drew attention to the dramatic increase in asylum seekers as yet another indication of the urgent need for a new immigration law.

"The 12 percent rise underlines the necessity for a thorough reform of immigration laws, including asylum policy. The government’s legislative proposal aims at reducing the abuse of asylum and the accompanying social burden," Schily said in response to the statistics. "It is our goal to strengthen and streamline asylum policy."

Schily also acknowledged the efforts of the SPD-led government to improve the situation in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan as contributing to a reduction in the number of asylum seekers. "Germany’s involvement in crisis regions has given people a new perspective, a reason for staying in their homelands and not becoming refugees in the first place."

Where do they come from?

The majority of the asylum seekers in 2001 came from Iraq, Turkey, the Republic of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and the Russian Federation.

As in the previous year, the number of applicants from Iraq increased dramatically. In 2000 there were 33 percent more asylum seekers from Iraq than in 1999. In 2001 the number of applicants soared with 17,000 seeking asylum. This represents an increase of more than 5,000 people or nearly 50 percent compared to 2000. Never before have so many Iraqis sought asylum in Germany.

Turkish applicants, predominantly Kurdish asylum seekers, represent the second largest group coming to Germany. Nearly 11,000 applicants came from Turkey. Compared to the year 2000, 21 percent more asylum seekers came from Turkey last year, moving the group up from third place.

In third place are applicants from the Republic of Yugoslavia. Only about 7,500 people applied for asylum in 2001, a drop of about 30 percent from the previous year, when the number was closer to 11,000. Of those applicants from Yugoslavia, 40 percent were ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, 34 percent were Roma and 3.5 percent were Serbian.

Asylum seekers from Afghanistan formed the fourth largest group with 5,800 applicants, an increase of 8.5 percent compared to 2000. There was a significant reduction of applications during the last three months of 2001. In October, 678 Afghanis applied for asylum, whereas in December only 378 did.

The number of people from the Russian Federation increased the most of all the groups at 63.7 percent over the previous year to equal 5,800 applicants.

Who gets to stay?

The numbers are deceptive. Although nearly 90,000 people applied for asylum in Germany, only 5,716 of them were actually granted asylum. That’s only 5.3 percent of the total applications. And yet 2001 was a record year compared to the previous one when only 3 percent of the applicants were given asylum.

Applicants from Turkey and Afghanistan were most likely to receive asylum.

Slightly more than 17,000 or 16 percent of the applicants were protected by German law from deportation and permitted to stay in the country. This too was an increase from the previous year. The most likely asylum seekers to be "tolerated" were Afghanis and Iraqis.

More than half of all the asylum seekers (54 percent) were rejected. These applicants, many of whom came long distances, will be forced to return to their countries of origin.

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