Asylum seekers from Algeria and Morocco are likely to soon be placed in one-stop reception and deportation centers from which they could be quickly expelled from Germany, according to a report in the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) have agreed to consider Algerians and Moroccans as coming from "safe countries of origin," a designation that will help speed up their deportation after a sharp rise in asylum applications from the two countries during the past year.
Currently, nearly all asylum applications from Algerians and Moroccans are denied, but nationals from the two North African countries undergo a several months long evaluation process during which they are divided among Germany's 16 federal states.
Germany's overburdened system rejects nearly 1,000 asylum applications per day, but the federal states are "obligated" to deport, Peter Tauber, secretary general of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) said last week.
However, deportations are rarely carried out. In 2015, only some 18,000 rejected asylum seekers were deported. Of 5,500 rejected asylum applications from Moroccans and Algerians in the first half of last year, only 53 were deported, according to an internal government paper.
Now, the CDU and CSU have agreed to put nationals from the Algeria and Morocco in special deportation facilities and process applications within weeks, the "Welt am Sonntag" reported. The CDU/CSU coalition partner, Social Democrats, will need to sign off on the plan.
The policy could even go into effect before Algeria and Morocco are officially labeled "safe countries of origin."
The new regulation would put Algerians and Moroccans in a similar category as asylum seekers from Balkan countries, who also have little chance of receiving asylum.
Faced with an influx of asylum seekers from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany's government last year moved to declare Balkan countries "safe" and expedite the deportation of nationals from those countries through placement in repatriation centers. The policy led to a significant drop in asylum seekers from the Balkans coming to Germany and more deportations.
The numbers of Algerian asylum seekers rose from 847 in June to 2,296 in December, while those from Morocco jumped from 368 to 2,896.
Algeria and Morocco uncooperative
In the case of Algeria and Morocco, however, Germany faces difficulties. Germany has complained the two countries are not cooperating in taking back their nationals.
Merkel raised the issue last week with her Algerian counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal when he visited. However, the Algerian premier said it was essential to first "ensure that they really are Algerians," a reference to the fact that the majority of asylum seekers come to Germany without papers.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have written to their Moroccan and Algerian counterparts to say that there needs to be better cooperation.
The renewed emphasis on Algerians and Moroccans comes as the government is getting blowback over its open-door refugee policy after hundreds of women were robbed and sexually assaulted on New Year's Eve in Cologne and other cities.
The assaults were allegedly carried out by what was described as Arab and North African men. The vast majority of the nearly 20 suspects identified by police so far have been from Morocco or Algeria.
On Saturday, police in Dusseldorf conducted a major operation against North African gangs suspected of pick-pocketing, robbery and drug dealing.
cw/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)