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Germany on track to return more asylum-seekers

Lewis Sanders IV
June 28, 2018

Germany has witnessed an apparent increase in the number of asylum seekers returned to EU member states. Under pressure to find a bloc-wide solution, the German chancellor has found support from some unlikely leaders.

Migrants crossing the border into Hungary from Serbia
Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress/P. Hackett

German authorities returned 4,100 asylum-seekers between January and the end of May to the EU country responsible for processing their application, according to information given in response to a parliamentary inquiry from the Left Party also seen by DW.

If the January and May figures remain relatively constant for the rest of the year, then a total of around 10,000 would be sent back, compared to 7,102 asylum-seekers returned in 2017. More than one-third of those were returned to Italy this year.

Read more:  Angela Merkel fights for lifeline in parliament as EU summit beckons

Under the so-called Dublin system, the EU allows for member states to transfer asylum-seekers to the country deemed responsible for deciding on their status, which is generally the first country an asylum-seeker entered the bloc.

Infographic showing how many asylum seekers have been returned from Germany

'Not a success story'

But the practice of returning asylum-seekers from Germany has been criticized by some German lawmakers.

"It is not a success story when the effectiveness of the Dublin system is on the rise again," Ulla Jelpke, lawmaker and domestic affairs spokeswoman for the Left Party, told DW.

"On the contrary: In practice, sending people back in order to enforce the unjust distribution system leads to bad things. People are torn out of bed at night without notice, and family members are separated."

Infografik Asylsuchende die in ihr Heimatland zurückgekehrt sind EN

Under pressure

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure domestically to find a European solution to irregular migration and the question of refugees. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has called for asylum seekers to be rejected at the border if they were registered in another EU state, a policy move Merkel has resisted.

Read more: Can EU summit help Merkel survive her domestic battle over migration?

Merkel is hoping to shore up support for resettling refugees from front-line countries such as Italy and Greece under a "solidarity-based agreement," while simultaneously increasing returns under the Dublin system. She will be meeting with other EU leaders at a summit later on Thursday to try to hash out a common solution.

Infografik EU Staaten, die Asylsuchende zurück nehmen EN

A way forward

The German chancellor has found support from some EU leaders for such measures, including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

In an interview with the London-based Financial Times, Tsipras said he believes that the burden on frontline countries as well as Germany must be shared across the bloc under a common European approach.

Read more: Where do EU countries stand on migration?

"We don't care about the fact that maybe we'll have some returns from Germany if this will help, in order to give the signal to the smugglers [that Europe is tackling illegal migration flows]," said Tsipras. "The dilemma that we have ahead is what Europe do we want?"

Politics of migration

More than 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015, many of them fleeing war and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Nearly 900,000 of them made their way to Germany that year.

Germany's refugee row: Can Merkel survive?

The bloc is still struggling to deal with the migration, with several member states refusing to host asylum-seekers under a quota system. Visegrad countries, including Hungary and Poland, have rejected measures to resettle asylum-seekers in their borders.

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