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German lawmakers pass bill seeking faster deportations

January 19, 2024

The Bundestag parliament has passed a bill that aims to enable easier and swifter expulsion of failed asylum seekers. The opposition argued that the provisions would prove ineffective.

Germany's Bundestag
Germany's Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser defended the law saying it will ensure those without the right to stay in Germany "will have to leave faster"Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's lower house, the Bundestag, on Thursday passed a bill that will allow faster deportations of rejected asylum seekers. The move comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition government seeks to deal with irregular migration and related issues.

The bill had been taken off the agenda at short notice in the last session a week before Christmas because one of the coalition partners, the Greens, had demanded changes.

It passed on votes from the three ruling parties — with a handful of Greens voting against — while the opposition Christian Democrats opposed the measure, criticizing it as ineffective. 

Some of the provisions of the legislation

Among some of the measures of the legislation — dubbed the Repatriation Improvement Act — is the provision for longer periods of pre-deportation custody, in a bid to give authorities more time to complete the process before having to release an individual.

The legal maximum duration of detention ahead of deportation will be extended from 10 days to 28 days.

Authorities will have more powers when it comes to conducting searches, for instance now being allowed to enter rooms of shared accommodation and not just the room of an individual being deported.

This had been a common stumbling block for authorities with failed deportations on account of a failure to locate those involved. Sometimes a lack of cooperations from migrants, who may wish not to provide identification papers knowing that could make repatriation more difficult, can also delay or thwart the process. 

Germany to speed up deportation of rejected asylum-seekers

Those without right to stay 'have to leave our country faster' — interior minister

Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser  defended the law in the Bundestag debate on Thursday evening.

"We will ensure that people without the right to stay will have to leave our country faster," Faeser said.

Under the provisions, people could be removed "faster and more efficiently" by the federal states, the minister said.

Faeser said that foreign criminals and those found to pose a threat needed to be consequently deported.

The law would also aid authorities in the fight against organized crime and in particular those trafficking people and would see minimum and maximum penalties in this area being increased

Ahead of the Bundestag debate, Faeser had pointed out that the number of repatriations had already increased by 27% to 16,430 in 2023 as a result of previous measures.

Faeser expects the legislation to make returns "much easier" once again and predicted it would result in "significant numbers" of deportations this year.

Sea rescue NGO 'horrified'

The legislation has riled rights groups with the Association of German Lawyers calling it "hardly in the realm of proportionality".

"We are horrified that people who are fleeing and those who offer them humanitarian aid can be threatened with prison sentences," sea rescue group SOS Humanity said.

The NGO said the German government "broke their promises of the coalition agreement to not hinder civil search and rescue." It also claimed that in some circumstances, the new law could mean its volunteers could be exposed to jail time. 

kb/msh (dpa, AFP)

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