Number of asylum seekers numbers in Germany drops by half in first half of 2017

FILE PHOTO - A migrant child walks at the sports hall of the Jane-Addams high school which has been transformed into a refugee shelter in Berlin's Hohenschoenhausen district, Germany, February 2, 2016 REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of new arrivals to Germany seeking asylum fell to 90,389 in the first half of 2017, about half as many as in the year-earlier period, the interior ministry said on Friday.

The biggest source country, at 22,320 people, was Syria, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea, it said.

More than a million migrants have flooded into Germany since 2015, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened borders to refugees, but the numbers have been dwindling.

In 2016 as a whole, some 280,000 migrants arrived in Germany, a sharp drop compared with 890,000 in 2015.

Germany processed just over 408,000 applications for asylum in the first half of this year, rejecting almost 40 percent of them, the ministry said on Friday.

To placate conservatives put off by Merkel’s open-door policy ahead of a September federal election, leaders of her Christian Democrat party (CDU) have been pushing to deport more migrants whose applications have failed or foreigners who have committed crimes.

Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Hugh Lawson