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German bill to cut asylum seekers from North Africa, Georgia

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German bill to cut asylum seekers from North Africa, Georgia
A 2016 pre-election rally in Georgia, one of the affected countries. Photo: DPA
14:07 CEST+02:00
Germany's government launched a renewed attempt Wednesday to declare three North African states and Georgia "safe countries of origin", which would raise the hurdles for asylum requests by its citizens.

Legislation, which aims to reduce the migrant influx to Germany, would add Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as well as Georgia to the "safe" country list that so far includes all EU members, six Balkans countries, Ghana and Senegal.

However, passage of the bill into law was far from certain after a first attempt was rejected last year in the upper house by states ruled by the Greens party, which advocates a humanitarian approach toward people seeking safe haven.

Greens party co-leader Robert Habeck said his left-leaning ecologist party had not changed its position on the three Maghreb states, arguing that journalists, homosexuals and other groups were not safe from persecution there.

"Therefore I don't see how these countries can be called safe," Habeck told the media group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, presenting the initiative at a Berlin press conference, argued that the bill still allows authorities to evaluate individual cases on their merits.

He said the aim was to deter asylum requests, or to speed up their processing and likely deportations, from countries whose citizens have almost no chance of being granted residency rights in Germany.

Immigration and refugee flows have become a flashpoint issue in Germany since Chancellor Angela Merkel decided in 2015 to keep borders open to a mass influx of people fleeing war and misery in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries.

The move earned her praise from liberal commentators but also sparked a xenophobic backlash that last year saw the far-right and anti-Islam protest party Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter parliament for the first time.

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