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'We've got to grips with immigration': Interior Minister on drop in asylum bids

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'We've got to grips with immigration': Interior Minister on drop in asylum bids
Two men in front of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) in Berlin. Photo: DPA
14:34 CET+01:00
Applications for asylum in Germany dropped steeply last year, hardline Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reported Wednesday, saying the issue had become less politically explosive as a result.

Seehofer said the official 2018 figures showed Germany had received around 185,000 appeals for asylum - a 16 percent decline from the previous year, far below the heights seen at the peak of the refugee influx three years ago.

"We have increasingly got to grips with immigration -- we have created order and clear rules that are being enforced," he told reporters.

"But that doesn't mean we have reached our goal."

SEE ALSO: 'Here, I am a human being': How Kaiserslautern continues to integrate refugees

Seehofer said the acceptance rate last year was about 35 percent. Most of the applicants came from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

The fall in applications was due to stricter border controls but also international agreements such as a pact with Turkey to limit refugee flows into the European Union, he added.

Fallen sharply

The arrivals have fallen sharply since 2015-2016 when, in these two years, more than one million people came to Germany, putting the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel under serious strain.

This graphic shows the number of asylum applications in Germany from 2009 to 2018. The bar on the right shows the nationalities of asylum seekers in 2018. Graphic: DPA

Merkel, in power since 2005, has defended her decision to leave the border open to asylum seekers as the right choice at the time on humanitarian grounds but vowed that such a situation would not repeat itself.

Seehofer, Merkel's sharpest critic within her conservative camp, said again Wednesday that the massive influx had empowered the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which won nearly 13 percent of the vote at the last general election in 2017.

 He said that was also why he had defended a goal of bringing asylum applications in Germany down to around 200,000.

"Whenever we had numbers below 200,000, there was hardly a (political) debate in Germany," he said.

"Whenever this number was significantly surpassed, you had new parties being founded such as the (hard-right, now defunct) Republicans or the AfD, which is flourishing, as well as tensions in Europe and divisions in society."

 
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