The German government seems to be working tirelessly when it comes to migration. In January, during her visit Rabat, Morocco's capital, German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Svenja Schulze announced a new migration partnership with Morocco.
'Part of overall concept'
What is the difference between these partnerships, repatriation cooperation agreements or previous migration agreements?
For Joachim Stamp, Germany's special commissioner for migration agreements, "migration partnerships are a component of an overall concept." According to the Interior Ministry, to which Stamp's post is assigned, this includes "a paradigm shift to reduce irregular migration and strengthen legal migration."
He explained that in contrast to general migration agreements, migration partnerships are more about trust-based exchange and cooperation in labor, training and attracting skilled workers. The idea is not only to fight irregular migration but to replace it with regular migration.
Migration expert Steffen Angenendt from the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs considers migration partnerships to be "extremely important" and "indispensable," but pointed out that they are not "a panacea for large migration movements."
Partner countries' interests ignored
"Previous agreements have generally been ineffective or have not achieved the effect they were supposed to," Angenendt told DW. "This is because all the EU migration and mobility partnerships concluded since 2007 have been primarily aimed at reducing irregular immigration."
He added that the problem was that the interests of partner countries had consistently been neglected.
These interests include the expansion of regular immigration opportunities to work, study or train in EU countries, he explained. Angenendt said that as long as these considerations were not considered, countries' political will to fulfill treaty obligations would remain low.
Such obligations include the rapid issuing of documents to nationals living in countries where they do not have the right to stay so they can be moved to their country of origin. They also include the stricter monitoring of those wanting to leave a country.
Most asylum-seekers in Germany fleeing war
On closer inspection, this means that migration partnerships are only partially suitable for reducing migration movements. Most people entering Germany as refugees are from countries where there are massive human rights violations and war.
"We cannot develop migration partnerships with countries such as Syria and Afghanistan," said Stamp in a statement. Instead, he stated that the German government was trying to support "neighboring countries that take in refugees from these countries."
According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, most asylum-seekers in recent years have originated from Syria and Afghanistan. In the past three years, the number of asylum-seekers from Turkey has also increased, accounting for 19% of the total.
Countries with which Germany has migration partnerships, such as Georgia, tend to be at the bottom of the statistics.
"I am very pleased that we have succeeded in reaching an agreement with Georgia and [will do so] in the coming weeks, with Moldova," said Stamp in an interview with the German television news channel Welt TV in early February.
He added that the migration partnership with Morocco announced at the end of January was already being implemented. "After many years in which things didn't go so well, we now have a trusting relationship," he said.
Controversial deal between Italy and Albania
For its part, Italy has reached a controversial agreement with Albania, which has EU candidate status, to reduce migration. This is sometimes called a migration partnership but does not seem to fit the description.
According to the agreement, Albania will establish two centers this year that will detain asylum-seekers while their applications are being processed. The international advocacy organization Human Rights Watch says the deal breaches international law.
Compared to Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, German development minister Schulze appears to have struck a different tone regarding migration. But she still wants to see more migrants without the right to stay deported from Germany.
"Migration is a fact of life," she said at the inauguration of the migrant resource center in Nigeria at the beginning of February. "We have to deal with it in a way that benefits everyone: migrants, countries of origin and the communities that receive migrants."
This article was originally written in German.
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