Germany's migration office is considering plans to build homes in Morocco where they can send deported underage migrants, according to leaked documents. The plans have been criticized by opposition lawmakers.
Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is planning to build homes in Morocco as places to deport underage unaccompanied migrants who have broken the law, or who want to return voluntarily.
A BAMF document leaked to the "taz" newspaper shows that two homes have been planned for now, each with 100 places, at a cost of 960,000 euros ($1,050,000) per year. The orphanages would include medical facilities, as well as some sort of schooling and vocational training, the plans said, and would also be available to local homeless children and young people.
Though they are still in the early stages of planning, building on the homes is expected to begin this year, with a test phase set for 2020.
"Appropriate NGOs" would be sought to build and run the facility, with "appropriate EU states" helping with the funding, "taz" reported. Sweden has already been asked to help, and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is named as a partner in the enterprise.
Another legal taboo broken
The BAMF referred DW's request for comment to the interior ministry, whose spokesman would not confirm the details of the plan printed in "taz," but sent a government answer to an official Green party question, dated from March, which confirmed that such homes were being planned.
The homes are supposed to "create prospects for staying and prevent potential illegal migration to Europe," the government answer said.
The plans have already been condemned by the political opposition - though with some cautious caveats. In response to the government, Green party Bundestag member Luise Amtsberg, who submitted the official question, welcomed the idea of "helping disadvantaged minors in Morocco on the ground," and said offering schooling was the "right approach."
"But if the support on the ground is at the same time coupled with the aim of deporting young people from Germany to the supposedly safe Morocco, then these well-meaning ideas cannot be successful," she said. "Once again, this shows: What the government labels as fighting the causes of fleeing is guided neither by human rights or in this case the well-being of children, but unfortunately serves only to shut people out."
Stephan Dünnwald, of the Bavarian Refugee Council, was even more scathing about the idea, and questioned whether it was even legal. "This would break a taboo," he told DW. "At the moment, minors can only be deported if they're put into the care of a legal guardian - that is, if the parents are standing at the airport to pick them up. If they're going to build homes there, it's legally and morally a very questionable business."
Dünnwald, who has observed how migrants are dealt with when they are deported to Kosovo, also wondered which NGOs could be found to run such homes.
"It's very difficult to monitor such projects at all, regardless of who is found to run them," he said. "If it's Moroccan NGOs - the better ones will probably not want to participate, and so they'll find some NGOs who are interested in the good financing. And you won't have any control over what happens, how the young people are treated, and how you ensure that they stay there - if it's not supposed to be a closed home."
According to BAMF figures, 35,939 unaccompanied minors - defined as anyone under the age of 18 - applied for asylum in Germany in 2016, of whom only 124 were from Morocco.
The government also runs programs for voluntary emigration, called REAG/GARP (Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany/Government Assisted Repatriation Program), under which 170 unaccompanied minors left Germany in 2016 - though none of these were Moroccans.
Though asylum applications are assessed individually, Moroccans generally have little chance of staying in Germany - of the 3,999 Moroccans who applied for asylum in 2016, all but 174 were rejected.
But legal hold ups, health issues, bureaucratic problems and the occasional refusal of airlines and pilots to cooperate if they believe a deportee might disrupt a flight, have all delayed deportations. As a result, around 100,000 rejected asylum seekers are currently living in Germany in legal limbo.
In August 2016, NRW and the federal government created a joint "task force" aimed at speeding up deportations to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
The issue has become a sticking point because those countries have been reluctant to accept the return of migrants thought to be criminals and whose nationality can often not be proven, and have consequently been slow to issue the necessary papers. That problem appears to have played a part in delaying the deportation of Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker who carried out an attack on a Berlin Christmas market last December, killing 12 people.
The federal government last year tried to reclassify Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as "safe countries of origin" in asylum law, which would make it easier to put blanket rejections on asylum applications from people from those countries. However, the legislation was blocked in March by the state governments in the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat.