Reuters International

BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of people seeking asylum in Germany fell sharply in the first half of the year as tougher rules at home and border-closures abroad started to kick in, the interior ministry said on Friday.

About 16,000 people registered in June, down from 92,000 in January, but the migrant crisis as a whole was far from over, the ministry said.

"I wouldn't hold my breath that this will remain so in the coming months," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters.

Border closers throughout the Balkans, an EU-Turkey deal to stop sea arrivals in Greece and tougher asylum rules in Germany were among the main reasons, officials said.

Germany took in more than one million migrants last year, mainly people fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Almost half a million people registered as asylum seekers in the last quarter of 2015, but only 222,264 in the following six months, the ministry figures showed.

Migrants who arrive in Germany are first registered at reception centres where they have to wait for months before they can officially file an asylum application, creating a huge backlog and putting strain on civil servants.

The influx dented the popularity of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservatives and prompted the rise of an anti-immigration party.

Turkey has threatened to suspend its migrants agreement with the European Union if there is no deal to grant visa-free travel to Turks. The number of migrants reach Italy in boats from Libya has also been rising.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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