Germany's government is falling short of its goal to deport significantly more rejected asylum applicants, a newspaper reports. More than 8,000 migrants have been removed so far this year, compared with 25,000 in 2016.
Within the first four months of the year, the German government has deported a significantly lower number of people compared with, according to a newspaper report on Saturday.
Citing information from Germany's Federal Police, Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that, by the end of April, a total of 8,620 people had been sent back to their countries of origin after their asylum applications were rejected. The figures indicated a marked stagnation compared to last year, which saw a total of 25,375 deportations.
This year has also seen fewer rejected asylum applicants voluntarily return to their countries of origin. According to police figures, only 11,195 such voluntary return trips were approved during the first four months of the year.
In 2016, a total of 54,006 people chose the voluntary return program, which covers certain costs, including travel expenses.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "national effort" last year to encourage people whose asylum applications are rejected to return to their home countries.
'Lack of cooperation'
After the recent drop in the number of refugee applications, Merkel and the premiers of the 16 federal states declared that only people whose applications had been approved would be allowed to stay and all others "should leave Germany."
An Interior Ministry spokesperson told Die Welt that the reason for the lower repatriation figures is that an exceptional amount of people returned to their countries of origin last year.
"Repatriations and voluntary departures in 2016 took place to a particularly large extent in the West Balkan countries," she said.
Repatriations to other areas have proved to be much more difficult because of a "lack of cooperation" with other countries, according to the Interior Ministry.
A representative from Hesse's state Interior Ministry told the newspaper that deportations to North African countries have failed in the past because some of the people whose asylum applications have been rejected do not have travel documents.
The deportations have sparked several protests and political debates, particularly when people are sent back to Afghanistan. The German government had been sending Afghans back to supposed "safe" regions within their homeland.
Following this week's deadly bombing in Kabul, Merkel announced on Thursday that Germany would be temporarily suspending all deportations to Afghanistan.
rs/bw (AFP, epd, KNA)