The number of new asylum applications in Germany, Europe's top destination for refugees last year, dropped 66 percent in March to about 20,000, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday.

"In December 2015, it was 120,000 people, in January 90,000, in February 60,000 and in March 20,000," he said, weeks after a string of Balkan countries closed their borders to refugees, halting the mass influx.

Germany last year took in more than one million refugees and migrants, with the flow accelerating after Chancellor Angela Merkel in September suspended normal EU asylum rules to grant safe haven to people fleeing the Syrian war.

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