Germany's parliament has agreed on tougher asylum rules aimed at curbing a record-influx of refugees as senior officials play down reports Berlin is expecting some 3.6 million migrants by 2020.
The Bundestag lower house of parliament passed a bundle of measures on Thursday (local time), including a two-year ban on family reunions for some asylum seekers that would also affect unaccompanied minors.
It also agreed on a new law to facilitate the deportation of foreign nationals who commit crimes, in the wake of assaults on women on New Year's Eve which were widely blamed on migrants.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff said Berlin wanted to reduce the influx of migrants, but nobody could tell how many would come this year and beyond, adding that internal estimates by ministry officials could not be seen as a government forecast.
"There are no reliable figures because we don't know how things will develop," Peter Altmaier said, pointing to uncertainties such as the civil war in Syria and negotiations with Turkey where many refugees leave from by boat.
Government sources confirmed a newspaper report which said ministries were calculating on the basis that some 500,000 migrants would come to Germany every year between 2016-2020.
In addition to the 1.1 million registered in 2015, this would mean Germany could see some 3.6 million migrants by 2020.
But this was a "purely technical" estimate, officials explained.
Altmaier noted it was a normal thing for ministries to make internal estimates on migration since the federal budget had to be planned.
The head of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Frank-Juergen Weise, said he was not working on the basis of the ministry estimates.
Since the beginning of 2016, more than 100,000 migrants have entered Germany.
Federal police said on Wednesday they had only registered 103 migrants arriving on Tuesday, suggesting a sharp drop as a result of tighter controls along the Balkan route.
At the start of the prior week, over 2000 were arriving on a daily basis.
Last summer the daily arrivals sometimes totalled over 10,000.