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Germany to start deporting underage migrants

Rebecca Staudenmaier
December 24, 2017

Since opening its doors in 2015, no unaccompanied minors have been deported from Germany. That is soon set to change, as Berlin has started building centers in Morocco to house deported minors, according to a report.

A young migrant with a backpack waits for a train in Berlin
Image: picture alliance/dpa/W. Steinberg

The German government started constructing two youth centers in northern Morocco to house local "street children" as well as unaccompanied Moroccan minors who have been deported by Germany, according to a report from the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

The pilot project creates a legal pathway for Germany to start deporting youths without needing to necessarily locate their families first. In recent years, Germany hasn't deported any unaccompanied minors.

Read moreA look at Germany's unaccompanied minor refugees

What do the shelters do?

According to Germany's Interior Ministry, who shared the information with Welt am Sonntag, the project involves:

  • Two shelters in Morocco that will each house 100 youths
  • Minors will receive social assistance, counseling and access to educational opportunities
  • Centers built in cooperation with the Moroccan government, local officials and NGOs

Read moreGermany to build orphanages in Morocco to deport minors

Refugee children: Alone in Germany

Family reunification 'would make more sense'

According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, the shelters "will be open to those under 18 returning voluntarily, as well as forced deportees, especially youths convicted of crimes."

Christian Democrat (CDU) politician and former head of the Bundestag's interior commission, Ansgar Heveling told the paper that although the project is an important step, "it would make more sense to achieve a reunification with their families in their home countries."

"The fact that not a single unaccompanied migrant could be sent home in recent years shows that the authorities must step up their efforts to locate the families," Heveling added.

Welt spoke with migrant youth center counselors in Germany who said that they have not seen any attempts by the authorities to locate the youths' families although many of them regularly talk of the phone with their mothers.

Read moreAll on their own: minors seeking refuge in Germany

Refugee hopes for family reunion

Legal requirements for child deportation

Unaccompanied minors whose asylum applications have been denied can only be deported by Germany under strict conditions. Prior to deportation, Germany authorities must ensure one of two options:

  • A family member or responsible guardian in their home country will take in the child
  • A "suitable" reception facility is available in their country of origin

However, hundreds of minors have been turned away at the border or had their asylum applications rejected in recent years.

Read moreReport: Germany misses migrant and refugee integration goals

How many minors has Germany deported in the past?

According to data provided by the German government in response to several inquiries from the Greens and the Left party:

  • Between 2010 and 2014 — four unaccompanied minors were deported to countries in Europe.
  • Between 2015 and 2017 — no unaccompanied youths were deported.

Read moreGermany: No Syria deportations before end of 2018

Thousands of unaccompanied youths: The German government announced its intention to build the centers in March. Figures at the time showed that 48,000 unaccompanied minor refugees are living in Germany.

Pressure on Merkel over migrants: Since opening up to thousands of migrants and refugees in 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government have come under pressure to stem the flow of migration. Nearly 900,000 refugees and migrants entered Germany in 2015. This year, the number of arrivals is expected to be less than 200,000.