February 4, 2016 / 4:43 PM / 2 years ago

Number of migrants registering in Germany falls markedly in January

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany registered 91,671 migrants in January, less than half November’s level, officials said on Thursday as pressure mounted on Chancellor Angela Merkel to deliver on her pledge to reduce the influx.

Migrants queue in front of the compound of the Berlin Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGESO) for their registration process early morning in Berlin, Germany, February 2, 2016 REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Support for Merkel has fallen sharply due to her open-door refugee policy, with a poll on Wednesday showing 81 percent of people think her government does not have the situation under control.

An Interior Ministry statement on the latest migrant tally gave no explanation for the notable drop in migrant arrivals, but it said previously that a downward trend seen since late last year was due mainly to freezing winter weather.

Germany has also reimposed spot controls on border points with Austria used by incoming migrants and is seeking to speed up deportations of those not qualifying for asylum.

Merkel has said the number of migrants entering Germany will fall after 1.1 million people arrived last year. Germany was the final destination for the vast majority of migrants who reached the European continent in 2015.

Public unease has grown since a wave of sexual assaults on women in Cologne at New Year that police say were carried out largely by young men of Arab and North African appearance.

The interior ministry said 91,671 people had registered on the so-called EASY system in January, more than double the number in the same month a year ago, although this was more than a third down from December and less than half of November’s total.

Among last month’s total, some 35,822 were from Syria and about 18,000 from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The EASY system records people in reception centers and then distributes them around the country based on each state’s population and tax revenues. Registration on this system is separate from officially applying for asylum.

The official number of asylum applications rose to 52,103 in January, about double the level in the same month last year and a 7.9 percent rise from December, said the ministry.

Some 1,623 people from Morocco were entered on the EASY system and the top-selling Bild daily cited government sources saying a basic agreement had been reached with North African countries about returning rejected asylum seekers there.

At the end of January, there was a backlog of some 371,754 asylum applications at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the interior ministry said on Thursday. That was around 7,000 more than at the end of December.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Holger Hansen; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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