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Opinion

Opinion: Maghreb countries wrongly classified as 'safe'

The Bundestag has voted to legally recognize Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as "safe countries of origin," thus solving an administrative problem. Justice has not been served by the vote, DW's Mathias Bölinger writes.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere gave a remarkable speech. Yes, he said, he knows that Algeria and Morocco are not democratic states. Yes, he also knows that

Morocco to take back migrants

Moroccans are vulnerable to reprisals if they criticize the occupation of Western Sahara. De Maiziere also knows that gay men and lesbians in Tunisia are given prison sentences. The interior minister knows that

Safe havens?

these states are not safe from a human rights perspective. Nevertheless, he has

Germany to label Maghreb states 'safe'

proposed to label them "safe," the reason being that 39 percent of asylum applications submitted by people from these states are rejected.

This is an impressive figure and, of course, it poses a great burden on public administrators who have to

process large numbers of applications.

But it does not by any means prove that these countries are safe. When determining whether political persecution takes place, the issue at stake is what happens to the victims, and not the number of people who are quantified as not politically persecuted.

Bölinger

DW's Mathias Bölinger

Human rights are systemically violated to varying degrees in all three countries. Citizens of the young Tunisian democracy are better off than those in authoritarian post-civil war Algeria or the Moroccan monarchy. However, none of these three states can be considered safe according to the numerous reports that the German government has compiled on the subject.

Restricting refugee rights

The "safe" designation has made it easier for authorities to reject most applications from such countries. Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has noticed that

immigrants from North Africa

increasingly do not even apply for asylum. Expecting to be rejected, they try to buy as much time as possible. In the future, they can be detained in a fast-track procedure for clear deportation cases. Processing time will be cut down because immigration clerks will no longer have to provide explanations for individual cases: They can simply refer to the new law. The legislative change also aims to reduce the number of unfounded asylum claims. But administration is one thing, and rights are another.

Germany's government argues that asylum applicants from "safe countries of origin" can appeal their denials individually to disprove that they are not being politically persecuted. The logic goes along these lines: We know that assuming these states are free from political persecution is wrong, but we have nonetheless decided that they are - if this is not true in individual cases, this position can be disputed. That is absurd. Until now, applicants from these countries have had to prove that they are entitled to asylum. Now they have to disprove that they do not have the right to asylum. That is the difference, and thus their rights are restricted.

A constitutional state cannot create legitimacy by defining the facts in a manner that meets the needs of public administrators. These states are not safe. Legislators are trying to make reality adapt to policy. In other words: The government is using the new law to bend reality for its own convenience.

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