When the first charter plane for rejected Tunisian asylum seekers took off in Leipzig on April 8th 2016, the German Interior Ministry hoped that discussion over faster deportations to North Africa would start to quieten down.
Shortly before, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière had agreed to work with the Tunisian government and set up chartered planes with a maximum of 25 people per flight.
By the end of the year, there were just five further flights, with an average of 12 Tunisians on board.
But there are many more asylum seekers from North Africa who have been rejected by Germany: the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) turned down the applications of 8,363 people from the region between January and November last year, while during the same time frame, 368 people were deported.
This is because there are various barriers in the way of enforcing deportation orders, the Interior Ministry explains.
Of the more than half a million rejected asylum applicants, 52,000 were issued orders to leave the country. Most who are denied asylum receive temporary status as “tolerated”, due for example to health reasons. In other cases the country of origin will not accept the person, or the rejected applicant was missing identification documents - this is the most common reason, according to the government.
The main suspect in the Berlin truck attack, for example, could not be deported as he should have been because Tunisia did not issue the necessary paperwork until after the attack.
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed told DPA recently that his government had followed deportations procedures and cooperated as usual.
According to an employee of the Moroccan interior minister who works on such cases - and who wished to remain anonymous - identification problems often arise when immigrants throw away their passports and pretend to be Syrian. In the last month, German and Moroccan agencies exchanged data about illegal immigration by Moroccans, and now more people can be sent back.
The procedure is also quite time intensive. Often consular authorities from asylum seekers' reported homelands will meet the refugees in Germany and investigate whether they are actually their citizens.
De Maizière wrote to his colleagues in state interior ministries that agencies must make sure that “the person concerned who must leave the country is also actually present”.
Immigration researcher Martin Zillinger from Cologne University said problems arise on both sides of the Mediterranean.
“There are authorities in the North African countries who - perhaps also out of solidarity for the immigrants - have no interest in working particularly quickly,” Zillinger said.
“We in Germany and the EU also have created a situation where we counteract the possibility for deportation by compelling people to disappear or go along illegally,” he added, explaining that many refugees throw away their passports because they see that they only have a chance to stay if they become “tolerated” or have a residence permit due to a lack of ID.
De Maizière and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel recently suggested that Germany cut development aid to countries that do not take back their citizens. But at the same time, North African countries feel they have been forsaken.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told DPA that there is a lack of support from European countries. Of the 1,373 rejected asylum seekers from his country, just 18 were recently deported. There is no attitude of trying to block things, he said, “as long as people voluntarily want to go back, we will also take them”.
In Tunisia, hundreds protested on the streets last weekend over topics including deportations from Germany. Many fear that Isis terrorists like Amri will return, while others do not want to take back the criminals rejected by Germany.