Migrant num­bers who left Ger­many rises sharply by ’16

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN: Around 55,000 mi­grants who were not el­i­gi­ble for or were re­fused asy­lum left Ger­many vol­un­tar­ily be­tween Jan­uary and Novem­ber 2016, up by 20,000 from the to­tal num­ber who left vol­un­tar­ily in 2015, a news­pa­per re­ported yes­ter­day. Ger­many has tough­ened its stance on im­mi­gra­tion in re­cent months, prompted by con­cerns about se­cu­rity and in­te­gra­tion af­ter ad­mit­ting more than 1.1 mil­lion mi­grants from the Mid­dle East, Africa and else­where since early 2015.

Last week a failed asy­lum seeker who had sworn allegiance to the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group killed 12 peo­ple when he rammed a truck into a Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin, fu­elling grow­ing crit­i­cism of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. The Sued­deutsche Zeitung quoted gov­ern­ment data show­ing the num­ber who re­turned to their homes in the first 11 months of the year. Most re­turned to Al­ba­nia, Ser­bia, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iran, the news­pa­per said. Those leav­ing are el­i­gi­ble for one-off sup­port of up to 3,000 eu­ros.

Ger­man se­cu­rity of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously told Reuters that the num­ber of those de­ported af­ter their asy­lum re­quests were re­jected rose to al­most 23,800 from Jan­uary to Novem­berup from al­most 20,900 in all of 2015. There has also been a rise in the num­ber of refugees turned away at the bor­ders. A re­port by the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily said po­lice had turned back 19,720 refugees through the first 11 months-up from 8,913 in all of 2015. Most were from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Nige­ria. They had been reg­is­tered in other EU coun­tries.

As pub­lic sup­port for her pro-refugee poli­cies wane ahead of Septem­ber’s fed­eral elec­tion, Merkel has said it is vi­tal to fo­cus re­sources on those flee­ing war, and to keep pub­lic sup­port by de­port­ing for­eign­ers to coun­tries where there is no per­se­cu­tion. A string of at­tacks and se­cu­rity alerts in­volv­ing refugees and mi­grants this year has boosted sup­port for the anti-im­mi­gra­tion Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party, which could com­pli­cate Merkel’s re-elec­tion hopes. Late on Tues­day, seven refugees from Syria and Iraq aged 15 to 21 were de­tained in Ber­lin on charges of at­tempted mur­der for try­ing to set fire to a home­less man in an un­der­ground sta­tion.

Greece to im­prove con­di­tions

Greece, a front­line coun­try for mi­grants flee­ing to Europe from war and poverty, vowed yes­ter­day to im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions in its over­crowded is­land camps. The num­ber mak­ing the sea cross­ing from Turkey to Greece has fallen sharply this year un­der a Euro­pean Union deal with Turkey. It stip­u­lates that peo­ple ar­riv­ing af­ter March 20 are to be held on five Aegean is­lands and sent back if their asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions are not ac­cepted.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from UN refugee agency UNHCR, 173,208 peo­ple have reached Greece this year, down from 856,723 in 2015. Some 60,000 mi­grants, mostly Syr­i­ans, Iraqis and Afghans, are still scat­tered across the coun­try, which is strug­gling to emerge from a debt cri­sis. About 15,000 are in over­crowded is­land camps that have grown vi­o­lent as the slow pro­cess­ing of asy­lum re­quests adds to frus­tra­tion over liv­ing con­di­tions.

“We are plan­ning to have new, small venues on the is­lands, ei­ther by set­ting up small, two-storey houses, in or­der to empty the tents, or by find­ing other places ... to im­prove con­di­tions,” Greek Mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Yan­nis Mouza­las told re­porters. “It will need time but we will do it.” He said au­thor­i­ties would also set up small de­ten­tion cen­tres and boost polic­ing. Mouza­las ac­knowl­edged that slow pro­cess­ing of asy­lum re­quests was an “Achilles heel” but said Athens was hir­ing more staff to speed it up. — Agen­cies

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