Asylum seekers line up at a government office in Germany | Photo: Imago/IPON
Asylum seekers line up at a government office in Germany | Photo: Imago/IPON

The number of asylum applications in Germany continues to decrease. According to the German interior ministry, there were over 30% fewer applications last year than 2019.

The number of people seeking asylum in Germany dropped significantly in 2020 -- by more than 30% percent compared with the previous year, the federal interior ministry announced Sunday (January 10).

According to the ministry, it recorded just over 76,000 first-time asylum applications last year, 31.5% fewer than in 2019. Most of the requests came from nationals from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey.

The ministry said that a further 26,520 asylum applications were made for children under the age of one who were born in Germany to non-nationals. This brings the total number of applications to 102,581.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the drop in asylum seekers could partly be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which sharply reduced international travel and caused some countries to close their borders, especially during the first wave of cases in the spring.

Frontex, the EU border and coast guard agency, also largely attributed the lowest number of irregular migrant crossings since 2013 to restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Criticism from Pro Asyl

But Seehofer, a CSU member of Chancellor Merkel's ruling sister parties (CDU/CSU), 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."

However, migrants rights group Pro Asyl said on Twitter on Monday (January 11) that the lower number of asylum requests was a result of the EU's "rigorous border policy."

"There are as many refugees as before, people continue to flee to Europe. But they are stuck in front of our gates, either in the snow or in camps of misery in border countries," Pro Asyl lamented, referring to the situation of 8,500 migrants and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina, some 800 of them living outdoors in wintry conditions, including children.

According to UN refugee agency UNHCR, there are currently some 26.3 million recognized refugees worldwide, the highest number ever.

Moreover, while the overall recorded number of people who lost their lives trying to reach Europe in 2020 decreased, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), certain routes, in particular the Atlantic one from Africa to Spain's Canary Islands, saw an increase in fatalities.

"Overall, the trend that more people die "within and en route to Europe" continues," IOM said.

145,000 decisions made on asylum

In 2020, Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided the asylum applications of 145,071 people, close to 40,000 fewer than in 2019. Of those,

  • 26% (37,818) were recognized as refugees under the Geneva Refugee Convention;
  • 4% fell under a deportation ban;
  • 13% received subsidiary protection;
  • some 32% of the asylum applications were rejected, and
  • around a quarter (24.8%) of cases were terminated otherwise (e.g. withdraws their application or they are a Dublin case and sent back to the first EU country they arrived in to continue their application there);
  • therefore, the overall protection rate was 43%

BAMF further said that around 52,000 asylum applications hadn't been decided yet at the end of December, down from some 57,000 in 2019.

The 76,000 asylum applications submitted in 2020 are only roughly 7% of the more than 1.1 million applications Germany received in 2015 and 2016 during Europe's so-called migrant crisis.

The new arrivals deeply polarized the country and fueled the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which rails against immigration 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.

However, a decision to lift a general ban on deportations to war-torn Syria on December 31 has been heavily criticized by rights groups, even if the government says it would only deport those deemed to pose a risk to security.



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