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Tunisia to work with Germany on repatriating migrants

Authorities in Berlin and Tunis will launch a pilot project to return rejected asylum seekers to Tunisia, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. Tunisia is the last stop on de Maiziere's North African tour.

The two countries are working on a pilot project to send 20 Tunisian migrants home from Germany, De Maiziere said after meeting Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid on Tuesday.

The goal of the project is to "test effective repatriation," according to de Maiziere.

After the initial stage, Berlin and Tunis aim to set up charter flights for the "regular returning of Tunisians who are legally bound to leave Germany."

"These repatriations would not concern the tens of thousands of Tunisians who live legally in Germany [where] they run small businesses, live normally and pay their taxes," de Maiziere added.

Berlin is set to provide financing for the initiative and police escort on the flights.

Before arriving in Tunisia on Tuesday, de Maiziere

visited Morocco and Algeria

to ensure their cooperation on repatriating migrants.

Speeding up identity checks

Citizens of North African countries have very little chance of being granted asylum in Germany, which has led many of them to throw away their passports and claim Syrian nationality.

On Monday, Morocco

vowed to help

with establishing identities of its citizens by comparing fingerprint scans.

"The Moroccans have said they will generally get back within 45 days," de Maiziere told reporters in Rabat.

In turn, Tunisian Prime Minister Essid announced that Tunisian consulate employees would be able to check migrants' identity in German refugee centers. This method of identity check should provide the results within ten days.

Watch video 04:31

Tunisia - a safe country of origin?

Germany to help Tunisian security forces

The German government wants to classify Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as "safe countries of origin." The move would speed up the processing of asylum requests and make granting asylum even less likely.

Over one million migrants arrived in Germany last year, with citizens of the three North African countries accounting for only a small percentage of the influx. The authorities have registered some 10,000 newcomers from Morocco, 14,000 from Algeria and less than 2,000 from Tunisia.

During his visit to Tunisia, de Maiziere also vowed to boost security cooperation between Tunis and Berlin. Germany is considering training Tunisian security forces, including those working for border control to neighboring Libya, which has developed into a people-smuggling hub due to instability and a power struggle between rival governments.

dj/ng (AFP, dpa)

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