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Germany sees two-thirds drop in asylum claims

June 18, 2018

The number of people claiming asylum in Germany fell to 222,560 last year, according to European Union figures. The data could provide some relief for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she fights to save her coalition.

A refugee couple walk behind a police car
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Schwarz

Germany saw a 70 percent drop in asylum applications last year, data released on Monday by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) showed.

In 2017, there were 222,560 applications to German authorities, down from 745,155 in 2016, the Brussels-based agency said.

The new figures were published as a serious rift over migration threatened German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition. 

Drop could help Merkel

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), led by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, are at odds over 
whether migrants — who register first another EU country — should be turned away at the German border.

Read more: Germany's reporting on asylum-seekers exposes 'latent racism'

EASO's data also showed asylum claims across the European Union, along with several European countries outside the bloc fell 44 percent.

Across the EU, 728,470 people sought international protection, down from almost 1.3 million applications in 2016. Most asylum applicants came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The EU figures also include non-EU members Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Italy sees increase

After Germany, which received the highest number of requests, Italy saw a 5 percent increase (128,850) compared to 2016.

EASO said a bloc-wide downward trend, which continued in 2017, appears to have been maintained this year.

Provisional data for January-April showed that "application levels have stabilized at an average of less than 50,000 per month," the EU agency said.

Read more: Donald Trump claims Germans are turning against government over migration

Frontex reports uptick in Greek arrivals

Another EU agency, Frontex, reported separately that Greece was the EU country that had recorded the most Mediterranean sea migrant arrivals in the first five months of the year.

More than 19,800 people arrived on Greek shores from January to May, a 90 percent increase over the same period in 2017, the EU's border agency said in a statement. 

Read more: Germany's Horst Seehofer fires head of BAMF migrant and refugee agency

In Italy there were 13,450 arrivals, down 77 percent year-on-year, and in Spain about 8,200, up 59 percent from January-May of 2017, Frontex added.

Migration to Europe is, once again, set to dominate an EU leaders summit next week. The European Commission said on Monday it was confident that EU leaders will agree a deal on handling migrants and refugees.

That's despite an unending dispute that has seen ex-communist states on the EU's eastern flank refuse to host newcomers as part of a migrant sharing program, hailed by the likes of Germany, France and Sweden.

mm/aw (AFP, dpa)

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