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Germany turned away 620 unaccompanied minors in 2016

February 8, 2017

The German government has revealed how many young refugees were denied entry at the German border following a parliamentary inquiry launched by the Greens. Berlin has said the minors failed to meet entry conditions.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge an der deutsch-österreichischen Grenze
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel

Local media reported Wednesday that among the minors rejected at Germany's borders last year were 275 Afghans, 58 Syrians, 39 minors from Eritrea and 36 from Iraq.

The "Rheinische Post" newspaper quoted the German government as saying that the minors were denied asylum because "they failed to meet entry requirements." The decision was likely taken because the minors in question lacked a valid visa or personal documents.

A person claiming asylum can be turned away from the German border on the grounds that they entered another European Union-member state first and that country is therefore responsible for their asylum application.

The figures also revealed that 45,224 unaccompanied migrants reside in Germany. Around 89 percent of all asylum claims by young people were successful last year, with 98 percent of Syrian minors and 71 percent of Iraqi minors reportedly granted asylum. However, claims from Morocco and Libya remained largely unsuccessful. The German government has named Morocco a "safe country of origin," which makes approval of asylum applications from the country extremely difficult. The European Union has also recently looked to Libya to reduce the number of people attempting to reach Europe from the north African country.

Germany's legal system distinguishes between border entry rejections and deportation. In the case of deportation, an asylum-seeker would have already had to be inside Germany and have their asylum application rejected before being sent back to their country of origin.  Being denied entry at the German border does not necessarily mean the minor will be sent back to his or her home country.

'Large-scale mistreatment'

Germany's Green party issued a stinging critique directed at the federal authorities over their handling of rejected migrant children. Beate Walter-Rosenheime, the Greens' speaker for youth policy, said the rejections were "a large-scale mistreatment of the children's well-being." Even if a minor does not receive asylum in Germany, authorities should check if an applicant has relatives in Germany before beginning the process to deny them entry.

The Greens' speaker for migrant policy, Luise Amtsberg, said: "Almost 90 percent of unaccompanied minors receive protective status. This demonstrates how urgent the need for support is among young people and that the reason for their fleeing is fully justified."

Infografik Hauptherkunftsländer Asylbewerber Englisch
Countries of origin for all people seeking asylum in Germany

Young refugees face strict regulations in Germany

Migrants under the age of 18 who arrive in Germany face a myriad of laws and regulations before they can be granted asylum.

New arrivals are taken into care by child protection services, where their age is determined - sometimes using bone analysis if doubts are raised concerning an applicant's age.

All of Germany's 16 states have a quota of how many migrant minors they should take in. The quota largely depends on the state's financial standing.

By law, minors should be sent to a state that has yet to meet its quota. In practice, this is rarely the case, as the level of intake among states varies enormously. Bremen, for example, has taken in almost three times the required number of young migrants, while Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania has taken in 76 percent of its designated quota. 

Merkel toughens stance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has toughened her stance on asylum-seekers whose applications have been denied following the December terror attack in Berlin. A Tunisian migrant, scheduled to be deported, killed 12 people and injured almost 50 after he drove a truck into a Christmas market. 

Last month, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere outlined plans to overhaul the country's asylum policy and security apparatus, expanding the federal government's powers at the expense of individual states.

One of the key changes proposed would see federal authorities take over the operation of deportation centers from the states.

rs, dm/sms (KPA, dpa, AFP)