German ministry wants to return asylum seekers to Africa
Move would be a huge shift for a country with one of the most generous asylum policies
Andrea Shalal Sunday 6 November 2016110 comments
Click here to receive news alerts on the US election
Migrants and refugees on a rubber boat wait to be evacuated during a rescue operation off the coast of Libya by the crew of the Topaz Responder, a rescue ship run by Maltese NGO “Moas” and the Italian Red Cross, on 5 November, 2016 Getty
The German Interior Ministry wants to stop migrants ever reaching Europe’s Mediterranean coast by picking them up at sea and returning them to Africa, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.
In what would be a huge shift for a country with one of the most generous asylum policies, the ministry says the European Union should adopt an Australian-style system under which migrants intercepted at sea are sent for processing at camps in third countries.
“The elimination of the prospect of reaching the European coast could convince migrants to avoid embarking on the life-threatening and costly journey in the first place,” the paper quoted a ministry spokeswoman as saying.
“The goal must be to remove the basis for people-smuggling organisations and to save migrants from the life-threatening journey.”
In pictures: A day of refugee rescues in the Mediterranean Sea
The ministry’s proposal calls for migrants picked up in the Mediterranean – most of whom set off from conflict-torn Libya – to be sent to Tunisia, Egypt or other north African states to apply for asylum from there.
Asylum seeker found in inflatable off UK coast on way from Calais
Thousands of refugees successfully sue German government over status
Refugee processing backlog in Italy ‘could cost lives’
Syrian refugees in Germany find mosques too conservative
If their asylum applications are accepted, the migrants could then be transported safely to Europe.
The ministry is headed by Thomas de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. Merkel has been under fire for her open-door refugee policy, with her party losing votes to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in recent regional elections.
The ministry said there were no concrete plans or discussions at EU-level about the proposal, but opposition politicians condemned the plan.
Italian coast guard rescues thousands of refugees off coast of Libya
Bernd Riexinger, head of the opposition Left party, said it would be “a humanitarian scandal and a further step toward elimination of the right to asylum,” the paper reported.
He said asylum applications should be filed in Germany to ensure applicants had access to legal help and he called Australia’s treatment of migrants “absolutely unacceptable”.
More than 2,200 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean in a single day on Saturday and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard said.
The International Organization for Migration said last week that 159,496 people had reached Italy by sea this year and 4,220 died trying – a sharp increase from 3,777 in the whole of 2015.