Germany Welcomed Asylum Seekers Last Year. Now It Wants To Double The Number Of Deportations.

A Syrian refugee child is held by his sister while playing on a stretcher at a refugee shelter in Freilassing, Germany, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MUHAMMED MUHEISEN
A Syrian refugee child is held by his sister while playing on a stretcher at a refugee shelter in Freilassing, Germany, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MUHAMMED MUHEISEN

A government coordinator responsible for handling the refugee crisis in Germany wants to “greatly increase” the number of deportations for rejected asylum applicants in the country, according to reports from various online media, suggesting that deportations could double last year’s numbers.

Peter Altmaier — the German official who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff — said that about 22,200 migrants were deported from Germany last year, while another 37,200 returned home voluntarily.

“A realistic benchmark for 2016 would be a doubling of these numbers — that’s where the states must take action,” Altmaier said. “We must ensure that the number of repatriations greatly increases.”

Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is currently deciding on more than 50,000 cases per month, with more than a third of applications rejected.

At least 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, with people fleeing war-torn Syria making up 40 percent of arrivals, Al Jazeera America reported. Afghans made up the next largest group of those seeking refuge in Germany, followed by Iraqis.

Last year, Merkel called it a humanitarian necessity to welcome refugees into Germany, affirming “we can do it.” But the mood has since shifted with anti-refugee sentiment at an all-time high in Germany. The government has since made clear that not everyone would be accepted and that it would turn away “economic migrants,” or people searching for better opportunities from countries at peace.

Altmaier defended a recent controversial EU-Turkey deal to deport migrants arriving in Greece back to Turkey, saying “it’s working better than everyone expected.” That pact would attempt to distribute the burden various countries have in taking in refugees by allowing the EU to take in one Syrian refugee for every one returned to Turkey, though the total number has been restricted to 72,000. International human rights agencies have recommended that number be increased to 108,000 a year. An Amnesty International report has found some evidence that Turkey is sending Syrian refugees back to their country, which would be a violation of international law.