Germany sees drop in asylum claims in 2018

The number of people seeking asylum in Germany has plummeted since the height of the refugee crisis. Claims peaked at 722,000 in 2016 after a wave of arrivals from the Middle East.

German government figures unveiled Wednesday show that a total of 185,853 asylum applications were lodged in 2018 — a 16 percent drop from the previous year. Of those claims, around 161,931 came from first-time applicants, while just under 24,000 were follow-up requests.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who presented the asylum data along with the government's 2016-17 migration report in Berlin, said a "steady decline" over the past two years indicated policy measures to restrict migration were working.  

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The refugee crisis that came to a head in 2015 resulted in a peak of 722,370 asylum applications being lodged in Germany in 2016, the ministry said. In 2017, asylum claims fell to 198,317. 

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Restrictive measures

Migration policy has been an extremely contentious area for the German government, particularly following the influx of people in 2015 and 2016. 

Seehofer almost caused the collapse of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition with the Social Democrats last year when he threatened to resign if his demands for stricter asylum rules weren't implemented. 

On Wednesday, the interior minister said that the 2018 figures met the government's target of a yearly maximum of no more than 180,000 to 220,000 asylum seekers. Seehofer added Germany had "done remarkably well" to strike a balance between humanity and control.

One in five of the asylum applicants in 2018 were babies who were born in Germany, the ministry said. The bulk of recent claims came from Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians.

The migration report also said that around 1.5 million people moved to Germany in 2017 — significantly less than in previous years. Sixty-seven percent of arrivals came from another European country.

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