By Ayhan Simsek
The number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany dropped by nearly 70 percent last year, German interior minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said nearly 280,000 asylum seekers came to Germany last year compared with 890,000 in 2015.
“This shows that measures taken by the federal government and the European Union have been effective in significantly reducing these numbers,” de Maiziere said.
He cited the EU-Turkey refugee agreement and the closure of Balkan route as important factors that helped in addressing the refugee flows.
Refugee influx in 2015 led to public discontent in Germany and gave rise to far-right and populist movements, which have exploited the crisis.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who suffered heavy defeat in regional elections last year, defended her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s doors to refugees who fled wars and conflicts.
She underlined Germany’s humanitarian responsibility, and argued that stopping refugee flows would only be possible by international cooperation, by improving the conditions of refugees in countries neighboring conflict zones, and by strengthening the fight against human traffickers.
The interior minister also renewed Germany’s call for a common asylum policy among EU member states to share the burden of the refugee crisis.
According to statistics announced by the Interior Ministry, over 89,000 Syrians arrived in Germany in 2016.
After Syria, the main countries of origin of asylum seekers were from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea.