“Germany is more than willing to give economic aid to North Africa, but only when the governments there reciprocate by allowing people whose asylum applications have been rejected to travel back into the country,” Gabriel, leader of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), told public broadcaster ARD.
The question of what to do with North African migrants seeking asylum in Germany has shot into public focus after mass sexual assaults over New Year in Cologne were described as being carried out by “men of North African appearance.”
Prosecutors in the western cathedral city are currently investigating 13 men in connection with the crimes, all of whom come from North Africa.
The German government has in recent weeks flagged problems in expelling Algerians and Moroccans, saying their countries of origin were often unwilling to take them back because of missing identity documents.
Over the past week German media have been reporting on the high rates of criminality among North African migrants, particularly in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Since the summer the number of people from the Maghreb – a region encompassing Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya – seeking asylum in Germany has swelled.
In August only 1,500 Algerians and Moroccans sought asylum in the Bundesrepublik.
By December that number had risen to 5,300, despite only a very small proportion of asylum applications being granted for people from this region, reports Die Welt.
The conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) are demanding that the government categorize Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as “safe countries of origin” meaning that new arrivals from those countries would have very little chance of being granted refugee status and would be deported more quickly.
In the summer the Balkan states of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo were labeled as “safe countries of origin”. This categorization contributed to a sharp fall in asylum applications from those countries in 2015.
Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel received Algerian prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in Berlin in an effort to improve cooperation on the issue of deportations.
But Sellal warned that his country would only take deportees if it could be established they were Algerian.
Tunisia has also claimed that some people who have sought asylum in Germany destroy their documentation and pretend to be Tunisian.