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Germany refusing and deporting more migrants

Ben Knight
August 9, 2016

Despite Angela Merkel's supposed "open door policy" on refugees, new government figures show more people are being turned away at Germany's borders. Deportations, particularly of large groups, are also rising.

Österreich Deutschland Grenze Nähe Bayern Passau Polizei Flüchtlinge Migranten Asylbewerber
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Stache

Germany turned away 50 percent more people at its border in the first half of 2016 than in the whole of last year, according to government figures released on Tuesday.
Border control officers stopped some 13,324 people from entering the country up until the end of June, compared to 8,913 in 2015, the new Interior Ministry figures show.

Germany also looks set to increase its number of deportations - with 13,743 in the first six months of 2016, compared to 20,888 in the whole of 2015. The numbers suggest that the introduction of border controls in September 2015 and the increased pressure on local authorities to deport more migrants from Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has started to show results.

The new figures come in response to an official information request from Bundestag member Ulla Jelpke and other members of the Left party, who condemned the government's policies as "irresponsible," as it meant more people were facing return to crisis-hit regions.

Deutschland Grenzkontrollen Bad Reichenhall Polizei
Germany introduced border controls last SeptemberImage: picture alliance/dpa /M. Balk

'Mass deportation practice'

The number of collective deportations were particularly alarming for Jelpke. "In Germany an inhumane mass-deportation practice has become increasingly established," Jelpke said in a statement. "The number of collective deportations has increased massively compared to the years before - its proportion of all deportations is now 74 percent."

"The EU and the [German] government can't manage to sensibly coordinate the reception and processing of asylum applications, but when it comes to deportations, they outdo themselves," she added. "That is the opposite of humane asylum policy."

Jelpke also condemned Germany's new asylum laws, introduced in three separate "packages" since last September, which have - among other things - made it easier to deport migrants. Deportations are no longer announced in advance - which means that families are often woken in the early hours to be deported. On top of this, health problems often no longer prevent deportations.

'Scare politics'

This, opposition politicians claim, is part of a government "scare policy" - long bureaucratic waits, little job certainty, less opportunity to bring family members - designed to make it as difficult to settle in Germany as possible so that migrants leave the country voluntarily. In fact, parts of the new asylum laws are specifically designed to introduce more integration opportunities, but nevertheless, Jelpke argues that most of the migrants leaving Germany are not really leaving voluntarily. The figures show that some 3,322 Iraqis and 2,305 Afghans left the country voluntarily with government support.

Nach Schießerei in München Bundesinnenminister Thomas de Maiziere
Thomas de Maiziere has pressured local governments to increase deportationsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gambarini

But a closer look at some of the entry denial figures - which have been broken down by country of origin and reason for denial - leads to other questions. For instance, they show that some 4,912 Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans were turned away this year at Germany's land borders, and in almost all cases the reason given was either the lack of a passport or the lack of a valid visa or residence permit.

But this suggests that none of these people, apparently coming from war-torn countries, asked for asylum, in which case they would have had to be allowed in as asylum seekers. So what happened in these individual cases?

For this reason, refugee organization Pro Asyl - no fan of Germany's asylum policy - argued that the new figures were not as meaningful as the Left party made it appear. "We're currently researching whether there were cases where we can prove that people were turned away and it wasn't lawful," a spokesman told DW.

"Of course there is an increase in the number of deportations," he said. "But it's not clear if there were cases where an asylum application should have been made - it could be that they said they wanted to make an application in another country."

"The number [of denials] has certainly risen - there was a relatively open border policy in the last few years - you can take the working hypothesis from these figures that more people are being turned away," he added. "But with more people at the border you get relatively high denial numbers."

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