The number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany plummeted by more than 600,000 in 2016, government figures show.

The interior ministry said about 280,000 migrants applied for protection in the year, compared to 890,000 in 2015.

Angela Merkel has been criticised for her decision to open Germany’s border to refugees during the height of the crisis, as thousands drowned in treacherous boat crossings over the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.

Right-wing groups have blamed the policy for terror attacks carried out by migrants, including the massacre at a Christmas market in Berlin, which forced a review of national security.

Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, said migration authorities remained prepared for “significant challenges” in the future as they continue to process hundreds of thousands of applications.

“The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) has made more decisions than ever before, almost two-and-a-half times those in the previous year,” he added, saying staff numbers had been quadrupled for the effort.

“The Bamf is now ‘out of the woods’ and with the wind in its sails.”

/The Independent/