Fewer migrants entered Germany illegally in August: police

September 2, 2016 8:06 AM EDT

Refugee youths gesture from behind a fence as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans (all not pictured) arrive at Nizip refugee camp

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Fewer migrants entered Germany illegally in August than during any other month this year, a police spokeswoman said on Friday, a consequence of border closures and an EU-Turkey deal to stop sea arrivals in Greece.

In August, around 4,200 migrants crossed into Germany, down from around 4,550 in July and a tiny fraction of the 64,700 migrants registered in January, the spokeswoman said.

The police data is based on checks in border areas. Figures for how many people registered in reception centers in August, which are usually higher, are due to be released next week.

Germany took in hundreds of thousands of migrants last year, mainly people fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The inflows have fallen sharply since early this year due to border closures in southeastern Europe and an EU-Turkey accord. Under that deal, Ankara has agreed to take back migrants leaving its shores for Greece in return for visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens, financial aid and an acceleration of Turkey's EU accession talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced growing criticism for her open-door refugee policy.

In a significant change of tone this week, she stressed the need to accelerate the deportation of foreigners who have been denied asylum, in response to rising public concerns.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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