Germany urged to make Turkey and Iraq deals to ease asylum backlog

Opposition wants focus on key migration routes with 24,000 Iraqis facing deportation

German towns and cities say they are overburdened by asylum seekers and struggle to find them schools and housing. Getty Images
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The German government will be urged on Friday to strike deals with Turkey and Iraq to return home some of the thousands of migrants denied asylum in Europe.

New figures reveal Iraqis are the biggest group facing deportation from Germany, with more than 24,000 people legally obliged to leave – many having had asylum claims rejected.

Thousands of Afghans and Turks are similarly in limbo. With thousands of new asylum claims coming every week, German towns and cities say they cannot cope with the strain on schools and housing.

Parliament will on Friday debate a 21-point list of demands by Germany’s centre-right opposition to tackle what it calls a migration crisis comparable to the mass flight of Syrian refugees in 2015.

One of the opposition demands is to “press ahead intensively” with new migration deals, so that countries “co-operate better in taking back their citizens”.

Such deals typically involve Germany offering the carrot of skilled work visas in exchange for more returns of failed asylum seekers.

Officials are in talks with Kenya, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan among others, but the opposition wants more focus on the busiest migrant routes.

Germany should prioritise deals with countries “such as Turkey, Iraq and Colombia” whose citizens apply in large numbers but with doubtful prospects of success, the 21-point paper says.

The opposition is renewing demands for Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to be added to a list of “safe countries”, making it easier to reject asylum claims, a proposal previously rejected by ministers.

Its paper also calls for Turkish efforts to stem the flow of people to Europe to be pushed back up the agenda. This should be a “top-level priority” for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, it says.

About 61,000 Turkish people sought asylum in Germany last year, with most cases still pending. There were more than 11,000 applications from Iraq, of which more than half were rejected. Some of those in theory required to leave have an interim “toleration” status preventing their forcible deportation.

Syrians are the biggest group of asylum seekers but their claims are far more likely to succeed and Germany does not charter deportation flights there, nor to Afghanistan.

There is no ban on deportations to Turkey or Iraq and some charter flights have taken place.

German officials decide in individual cases whether someone’s home region is safe.

Talks with Iraq have proceeded on an informal basis and activists say the deportation net is being widened beyond convicted criminals, with 641 Iraqis expelled last year compared to 77 the year before.

A large backlog means many migrants have been in limbo for years and housing can only be found with the “greatest difficulty”, local authorities say. The position in schools and nurseries is “highly strained”.

Germany has brought in temporary checks at its land borders with Poland, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. In January, MPs passed a law aimed at speeding up deportations.

Police are gaining powers to detain people facing deportation for 28 days, rather than 10, and widen searches of their homes amid fears of asylum seekers “going underground”.

Migrants will also be easier to deport if officials can establish they have links to organised crime, even if they have not personally been convicted of any such offence.

The opposition Christian Democrats will urge ministers on Friday to pick up the pace.

“Germany finds itself in the third great migration crisis in its history,” their paper says, after tempers similarly flared over asylum in the early 1990s and again after 2015.

“At the same time, the migration crisis is above all a German problem. No other EU country is experiencing even close to the growth in asylum claims as in Germany.”

Updated: March 14, 2024, 10:17 PM