Migrant numbers who left Germany rises sharply by ’16
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