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Asylum cases plunge in Germany

16 January 20210 comments

Asylum claims in Germany fell by a third in 2020 compared with the previous year, new data shows.

Germany’s interior ministry has reported that the numbers of people seeking asylum in 2020 fell by 30 percent as closed borders and coronavirus lockdowns slowed arrivals.

The data shows just over 76,000 first-time asylum applications last year, 31.5 percent fewer than in 2019.

Most of the requests came from nationals from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey, the ministry said in a statement.

A further 26,520 asylum applications were made for children under the age of one who were born in Germany to non-nationals, bringing the total number of applications to 102,581.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the drop in asylum seekers could partly be attributed to the pandemic, which disrupted international travel and saw some countries resort to border closures, especially during the first wave of cases in the spring.

But Seehofer, a hard-line conservative, also pointed out that the number of asylum seekers in Germany has been falling steadily over the past four years, which he said “showed that our measures to steer migration are working”.

Just over 37,800 people were newly recognised as refugees in Germany last year.

Germany saw a huge influx of migrants five years ago after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country’s doors to those fleeing conflict at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.

In 2015, Germany saw more than 400,000 first-time asylum applications, followed by over 700,000 requests the following year.

The new arrivals have polarised the country and fuelled the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has criticised migration and Islam.

The German government has responded by toughening its migration policies and stepping up deportations of rejected asylum seekers or refugees convicted of violent crimes.

But a decision to lift a general ban on deportations to war-ravaged Syria from 2021 has been slammed by human rights groups even though the government says it will only be applied to those deemed a security risk.

Refugee rights groups say that Germany’s low asylum seeker figures were a result of “Europe’s rigorous border closures”.

They say many migrants are currently “stuck in misery” in winter temperatures in Bosnia after their camp burnt down and they say Germany has room for them.

The tougher stance on migrants comes even though a senior German politician says his country needs 500,000 migrant a year to avert a demographic catastrophe wrought by an ageing population.

Deputy Chairman of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats’ (FDP) parliamentary group Christian Durr said in a recent speech that immigration was the key the Germany’s future as the second most ageing country in the world.

“Germany will experience a huge retirement wave. Our birth rates are so low that without immigration the country will regress. At the same time, immigration fosters diversity, which in turn makes us a better country and a better society,” Mr Durr said.

Also, welfare payments to migrants in Germany have plunged 12 per cent in the past year in line with a fall in the proportion of the broader populations receiving government payments.

Germany’s Federal Statistics Office recently published data showing that 411,000 people were claiming asylum seekers’ benefits at the end of 2018, down from 458,000 in 2017.

The drop has been attributed partly to fewer asylum claims and the higher number of completed or decided cases but also top Germany’s apprentice training system, which has seen thousands of migrants qualify and take up jobs as trades people.