BERLIN Germany's migration agency hopes to clear a backlog of 435,000 asylum cases within months, the organisation's new director said in an interview with Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper on Wednesday.
Jutta Cordt, who took over as head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) this month, told the newspaper her top priorities were to accelerate the processing of asylum applications, deepen integration, and step up deportations of those whose applications were denied.
"We carried over 435,000 cases into the new year and we want to have dealt with those this spring," the paper quoted Cordt as saying.
She told the paper the agency had received 40 million euros (£34 million) in additional funding in 2017 to work on repatriation processing and wanted to start that process sooner.
"If there is virtually no prospect for a migrant to stay here, it makes sense to push for an early repatriation and to encourage that financially," Cordt told the newspaper.
More than a million migrants from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany since the beginning of 2015, prompting concerns about security and integration. Polls show that migration will be a key issue in September's national election.
The issue of repatriation - and better identification of refugees - has taken on new urgency after a spate of Islamist attacks carried out by failed asylum seekers, including Anis Amri, the 24-year-old Tunisian man who rammed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December, killing 12 people.
Amri, who was shot dead in Italy, had lived in Germany under at least 14 different names, police have said.
Cordt told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper in a separate interview that local authorities should be taking fingerprints from migrants to better track their identities and avoid multiple asylum applications.
Migrants are currently fingerprinted by police if they cross the German border without a valid passport, then again in a migrant intake centre and for a third time when they file an asylum application.
BAMF has said that it has now biometric data on all migrants, but it is not clear how many multiple applications for asylum benefits have been filed.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alison Williams)