BERLIN (AP) — The number of new asylum-seekers registered in Germany dropped significantly last year to some 186,000, according to new government figures released Tuesday.
The figure of 186,644 given by the Interior Ministry compared with some 280,000 in 2016 and a peak of 890,000 the previous year, when the influx of migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere to Europe was at its peak.
Syrians were the biggest single group of new migrants last year, accounting for 47,434 of the total. They were followed by 21,043 Iraqis and 12,346 Afghans.
In December, 13,082 new arrivals were registered, somewhat lower than in the previous months.
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The huge influx of migrants in 2015 put pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel from the right of her own conservative Union bloc, and boosted support for to the anti-migrant nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which won seats in parliament for the first time last year.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that despite the downward trend the number last year was still “much too high,” though he would not say what figure the government found appropriate.
In total, de Maiziere told reporters that 222,683 people filed formal asylum applications last year, but that included people who had arrived previously and had had to wait to apply.
He said the government’s migration authority has now largely dealt with what at times was a large backlog of pending cases.
He also stressed the need to continue working to prevent smugglers from bringing migrants illegally to Europe and ensure that those who do come as refugees are truly in need of protection.