The German government said on Thursday that more than 91,000 refugees arrived in Germany last month, highlighting the challenges the country faces in trying to reduce the influx.
The Interior Ministry reported that 91,671 people were registered as refugees in the country in January, compared with 127,320 who arrived in December. Officials said that the harsh winter conditions were the reason for the decrease.
Germany, which has a population of around 80 million, has welcomed more refugees than any other European country. Almost 1.1 million refugees came in 2015 and officials are keen to ensure that the numbers are lower this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been insisting that diplomacy is the key to a solution and has resisted pressure for unilateral measures such as a cap on refugee numbers.
However, the government has taken action to tighten asylum policies and has gradually toughened its tone.
Merkel said last weekend that Germany expected Syrian and Iraqi refugees would return home after Syrian civil war is over and the DAESH terrorist group is defeated.
On Tuesday, the German Cabinet approved a list of measures including using special centers to quickly process refugees who have little chance to gain asylum in the country, which means that some Syrians may have wait longer to bring relatives to Germany.
Last month 35,822 Syrians arrived in Germany - the largest group arriving in the country. Iraqis and Afghans followed them with more than 18,000 from each country as well as much smaller numbers of Iranians and Moroccans.
After a recent hike in new arrivals from North Africa, who have very little chance of being granted asylum, the government is considering declaring Morocco, Algeria and Tunusia safe countries of origin so that it would make it easier to return refugees to those countries. Germany adopted the same method last year for several Balkan nations.
A German television poll showed on Wednesday that 81 percent of respondents did not believe the government could cope with the refugee situation and that 61 percent were dissatisfied with its work in general. Meanwhile, 46 percent were satisfied with Merkel’s work, down 12 points from a month earlier and her worst showing since 2011.
The telephone poll of 1,004 people, carried out on Monday and Tuesday, gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.