Germany's Merkel to travel to Turkey next week over migrants

AP News
Posted: Feb 05, 2016 8:00 AM

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's prime minister as she tries to reduce the migrant influx to Europe, the German government said Friday.

Merkel and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu decided on the trip when they met at this week's aid conference for Syria in London, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel's diplomatic efforts to reduce the number of migrants coming to Germany. She has resisted pressure for unilateral measures such as a national cap on refugee numbers.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The European Union pledged 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help improve the condition of refugees in Syria in return.

So far, officials say a recent dip in the number of migrants arriving in Germany appears to be largely down to winter weather.

The government registered nearly 1.1 million arrivals last year, though it believes the actual number is lower because of double registrations and people who continued to other countries. It is keen to ensure that the number drops in 2016, but still saw 91,000 people arrive in January.

Germany's immigration authority has struggled for months to keep up with the influx, though it is adding staff and says it speeded up handling asylum claims in last year's fourth quarter.

Frank-Juergen Weise, the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, said Friday that 370,000 asylum applications have yet to be processed and an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people who have arrived in Germany have yet to file formal applications.

"This situation is not acceptable — I want to make that clear," he said. "It is bad and unacceptable for people to have to wait so long. It is bad for any prospect of integration, including for the labor market, bad if it takes too long."