A spokesman for Germany's defense ministry said Wednesday that the decision not to replace a departing frigate was taken in order to "give space to the political discussion." Frank Faehnrich said Germany will continue to contribute personnel for Operation Sophia's flagship and for the mission's headquarters on land.
The mission's mandate is due to expire at the end of March after receiving only temporary extensions. Italy wants to prevent migrants rescued by participating ships from being brought first to Italy. Faehnrich said European ships have rescued some 45,000 people as part of the mission, though its primary purpose is to deter people smugglers.
Italian authorities have begun transferring migrants from a reception center outside of Rome in the first concrete application of controversial legislation sought by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to crack down on migration.
Castelnuovo di Porto Mayor Riccardo Travaglini told SkyTG24 the closure of the center "interrupted a process of integration that was underway" for hundreds living at the center slated for closure. Some 350 migrants are being moved out of the center over five days.
Advocates for the migrants say that some who had won the right to humanitarian protection have lost the right to have a place to stay under the new law. The mayor told Sky that he had given a room in his house to a young woman who was being displaced by authorities enacting the legislation
Germany's top migration official says the number of asylum applications has dropped to 185,853 in 2018 — a decrease of 16.5 percent compared to the year before.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters Wednesday that Germany saw 36,830 fewer applications, which he said showed the success of the different measures the government had taken since the dramatic influx of more than 1 million migrants in 2015-16.
Seehofer said among the measures that helped decrease the number of migrants were shorter processing times, more deportations and voluntary repatriations as well as multinational agreements like the EU-Turkey accord that keeps asylum seekers from entering Europe in the first place.
As in past years, Syria was the number one country of origin of asylum seekers with 46,164 applications, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan.