Germany recorded 1.1 mn asylum seekers in 2015: Ministry

AFP , Wednesday 6 Jan 2016

Picture taken on September 10, 2015 shows an asylum seeker taking a selfie picture with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following Merkel's visit at a branch of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and a first registration centre for asylum-seekers in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel stood firm on her decision to open Germany to refugees despite mounting criticism, telling citizens in her New Year's address on December 31, 2015 that the record influx is "an opportunity for tomorrow". (AFP)

Germany registered 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, with Syrians fleeing a brutal civil war making up almost 40 percent of arrivals.

The number of Syrians seeking refuge in Europe's biggest economy hit 428,468 during the year, with Afghans the second-biggest group at 154,046 applicants.

The annual arrivals were a record and around five times more than 2014.

Acknowledging the enormous effort put in by officials and volunteers to register, house and feed the newcomers, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the federal government would put in 4,000 additional staff at the migration office alone to manage the massive influx.

The government would also make a monthly contribution of 670 euros per asylum seeker to help state and local governments cope.

At the same time, de Maiziere promised to end the trend of increasing asylum seekers.

"We will work in all policy areas towards sharply reducing the number of new asylum seekers to Germany," he said.

The record migrant influx has split public opinion in Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is increasingly coming under fire, even in her own coalition, for her open-door stance to those fleeing war and misery.

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