izbjeglice, migranti.jpg
Photograph: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

More than 180,000 people applied for asylum in Germany in the first quarter of this year, an increase on the same period in 2015, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Friday.

Speaking at a press conference, de Maiziere said that despite the year-on-year increase in asylum bids, the number of arrivals had decreased sharply between February and March as a result of border closures along the Western Balkan route.

The minister said that the number of new arrivals dropped by about two-thirds from 61,428 in February to 20,608 in March, adding that the figures may be inflated because of double registrations in different parts of Germany.

At the height of the refugee crisis in November, the monthly number of arrivals stood at 206,000.

In total, Germany took in some 1.1 million migrants in 2015, the largest influx since World War II.

"The number of asylum requests is up - the number of people arriving in Germany is down," said de Maiziere, adding that the seemingly contradictory trends were down to the fact that the authorities dealing with asylum requests were becoming more efficient.

De Maiziere was holding a press conference alongside Frank-Juergen Weise, the head of the Ministry for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), who said that authorities are dealing with a backlog of 410,000 asylum requests.

As many as 400,000 other migrants are inside Germany, but have yet to submit their asylum bids, Weise said.

In response to a question on how many migrants Germany would be able to take in in 2016, de Maiziere declined to give an exact number but said that Germany's capacity to accommodate refugees was "great."

"The more confident we are - confident in our freedom and our heritage - the more capable we will be of tolerance and allowing integration to happen," he added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said her government would put forward new legislation and policies to aid the integration of refugees.

She was speaking ahead of a meeting between her government and representatives from German industry associations.

Latest news

Earthquake rocks buildings in northern Zambia; no injuries reported

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Zambia and neighbouring countries early Friday, the US Geological Survey reported.

China overtook US, France as Germany's top trading partner in 2016

China overtook the United States as Germany's biggest trading partner in 2016, according to data provided by the Federal Statistics Office on Friday.

Orban upset by end of Budapest 2024 bid; IOC to ponder adjustments

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday reiterated his regret about the end of his nation's Olympic dream while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could further revise future bid campaigns in the wake of Budapest's withdrawal.

Italy seizes millions from dodgy Rome businessman

Italian police on Friday seized assets worth 40 million euros (42.4 million dollars) from a Rome businessman who falsely claimed residence in Dubai to dodge taxes.

UN, HRW workers in crosshairs as Israel cites bias, Hamas membership

The United Nations on Friday rejected Israeli claims that one of its aid workers in the Palestinian Territories is a "terrorist" who belongs to the radical Islamist Hamas movement.

Consulates deny telling teachers, parents to denounce Erdogan critics

Turkish consulates in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia on Friday dismissed allegations that they instructed teachers and parents to denounce critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Source: Le Pen defied police summons in assistants' pay enquiry

Marine Le Pen failed to appear for a summons for police questioning on Wednesday, a source close to the investigations has told dpa.

Iraqi forces claim key Mosul base, enter first western district

Iraqi forces seized a major military base from Islamic State on Friday and stormed the first district in the western section of Mosul, part of their campaign to dislodge the radical group from its last key Iraqi stronghold, a senior commander said.

BASF sales down 18 per cent due to Gazprom asset swap

German chemicals giant BASF said Friday that its revenues decreased by 18 per cent, to 57.6 billion euros (60.9 billion dollars), in 2016, due mainly to a multibillion-euro asset swap with Gazprom, Russia's state-backed gas group.

New Delhi shocked at reports of Indian national dead in US shooting

India was in shock and dismay Friday at the news of the death of an Indian engineer in an alleged racially motivated killing in the United States earlier this week.

42 killed in car bombing in Syria's al-Bab, monitor says

At least 42 people are dead after a car bombing in Syria's northern city of al-Bab on Friday, a day after Turkish-backed rebels seized control of the city from the Islamic State extremist militia, a monitoring group reported.

Car bombing kills at least eight soldiers in Yemen

At least eight government soldiers died in a Friday car bombing in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, a local security official said.