Germany records 964,000 new asylum seekers since Jan

Asylum seekers wait to be registered at a refugee centre in Giessen, Germany, on December 2, 2015 (AFP Photo/Boris Roessler)
Germany registered 964,574 new asylum seekers in the first 11 months of the year, putting Europe\’s top economy on track for a million arrivals in 2015, official figures showed Monday.
Some 206,101 migrants came in November alone, a new monthly record, up from a previous high of 181,166 in October, according to the interior ministry.
The number of arrivals for the year so far was more than four times the total for all of 2014 with Germany now the top European destination for people fleeing conflict, repression and misery in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The data did not provide a breakdown of the nationalities of the new arrivals.
In previous months, Syrians topped the figures, with around one in three applications coming from citizens of the war-torn country, for whom Germany has adopted an open-door policy.
But the numbers of people arriving have eased over the past "one to two weeks", said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, pointing to harsher winter weather deterring many from making dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.
Daily arrivals in Germany were now around 2,000-3,000 rather than the previous 8,000-10,000, he said, also pointing to a Turkish crackdown on people smugglers.
"This is not a turning point, but a good development," he said at a press conference.
The UN refugee agency last week described a similar trend, saying the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe had fallen by more than a third in November.
Throughout the month, some 140,000 people made the perilous sea journey, reflecting a 36-percent drop from October when a record 220,535 landed on Europe\’s shores, UNHCR said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel\’s decision to welcome Syrian refugees has won her plaudits but also sparked a backlash, with some senior ministers openly questioning the approach and her usually-stellar poll ratings slipping several points.
The interior ministry, meanwhile, has faced withering criticism over its handling of the influx of asylum seekers and a backlog at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
In an interview with Die Welt newspaper, EU parliament chief Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, accused the government of running a backlog of more than 300,000 unprocessed asylum applications.
The ministry, however, pointed out that civil servants had this year managed to shorten the processing of asylum claims — with each claim taking five months, down from seven in 2014.
This had been achieved by speeding up the decision-making process for asylum seekers "from safe countries of origin (especially west Balkan states) as well as for those from particularly unsafe countries of origins (especially Syria)," the ministry said.
The processing time for both Syrians and citizens of Balkans countries was now particularly short, at around three months.
So far, Albanians and Kosovans were among the top five groups of arriving this year in a trend that has alarmed the German government.
Berlin has recently listed both Albania and Kosovo as "safe countries of origin", meaning their citizens are not normally eligible for political asylum, in a move that has dramatically reduced the numbers from the Balkan countries.
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