BERLIN : The number of new asylum seekers in Germany has fallen for a second year in a row following the mass influx that peaked in 2015, the government said Sunday. For all of 2017, "I presume a total of fewer than 200,000 migrants," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. The EU's top economy has taken in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015, around half from conflict-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, in a mass intake that sparked a xenophobic backlash. The total for 2015 reached 890,000, but arrivals slowed sharply after several Balkans transit countries shuttered their borders and the EU in March 2016 reached a deal with Turkey to stop crossings to the Greek islands. Arrivals of new asylum seekers to Germany fell back to around 280,000 in 2016. Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under strong pressure for her liberal immigration policy, and her Bavarian allies the CSU have long pushed for a maximum intake of 200,000 refugees a year.

Merkel has agreed to the figure but labelled it a "benchmark" rather than an iron-cast maximum. De Maiziere said that by late November this year, the number of new asylum seekers in Germany stood at around 173,000.