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Interior Minister Horst Seehofer presented a plan with rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation. The focus is on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer gained Cabinet backing Wednesday for his Orderly Return Bill (Geordnete-Rückkehr-Gesetz).
The plan will go to parliament for debate, and could pass before the summer recess.
However, German states do not all approve of the plan which would see asylum seekers who are to be deported being held in state jails rather than pre-deportation holding facilities.
Seehofer said his package contained "strong elements" that would facilitate expulsions. Last year, Germany deported about 25,000 people. This represents just over a tenth of the total number of people ordered to leave the country.
The plan contains a series of contentious proposals including:
According to the Federal Interior Ministry some 240,000 people had been told to leave Germany by the end of February. Of these, 184,000 were deemed to have tolerated stays (Duldungen) due to illness or unverified identities.
Following Europe's 2015 refugee crisis, asylum applications filed in Germany rose to 722,370 in 2016. Last January, Seehofer said Germany had "struck a balance" in 2018 by lowering the total to between 180,000 and 200,000.
Cabinet also endorsed legal changes proposed by Labor Minister Hubertus Heil to improve the integration of those people allowed to stay, or awaiting decisions likely to lead to approvals.
Attendance at German language and integration courses would be allowed nine months after the arrival of some applicants.
Currently, these courses are restricted to people recognized as having good prospects for residence, notably from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Iran and Iraq.
Reactions to the plan
The package drew criticism Pro Asyl [Pro Asylum], a Frankfurt-based alliance of church and secular groups, which said the plan was focused on "deprivation, increased detentions, and the forced eviction of refugees from Germany by withholding welfare assistance."
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), claimed the government was "hindering deportations."
Opposition Left Party co-leader Bernd Riexinger accused Seehofer of acting like a "Wild West Sheriff," setting false priorities at a time when his ministry should be seeking answers to Germany's rental housing and apartment crisis.
The Greens' Filiz Polat described the draft legislation as "one-sided, saying it was "highly questionable" in terms of its constitutionality, and "noxious" in relation to Germany's integration efforts.
ipj/jm (AFP, epd, KNA dpa)