Germany steps up migrant deportations to North Africa

Germany has boosted the number of repatriations of rejected asylum seekers to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, the government said Monday, following years of diplomatic pressure on the Maghreb states.

Germany steps up migrant deportations to North Africa
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) shakes hands with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia in September. Photo: DPA

“We have managed to improve cooperation with these countries, which has resulted in a rise of repatriations,” said an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Between 2015 and last year, repatriations from the biggest EU economy to Algeria rose from 57 to 504, he said. To Morocco, they increased from 61 to 634, and to Tunisia from 17 to 251 over the same period.

Immigration and refugee flows became a flashpoint issue in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel decided in 2015 to keep borders open to a mass influx of people fleeing war and misery, half of them from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

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

Public fears have been heightened by several jihadist attacks – especially a 2016 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 and was attributed to Tunisian rejected asylum seeker Anis Amri.

Germany has since pushed hard to reduce migrant flows, especially of those deemed to be fleeing poverty rather than conflict.

Bild daily quoted unnamed German security sources saying that “intensive negotiations” had improved cooperation with the Maghreb states, especially in exchanging biometric data to identify deportees and issue them new travel documents.

Merkel's government has also repeatedly tried to add the three North African states to its list of “safe countries of origin”, which would vastly raise the hurdles for asylum requests by its citizens.

However, passage of the bill into law has been blocked in the upper house by states ruled by the left-leaning Greens party, which argues the Maghreb nations – Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia,  cannot be considered “safe” as long as journalists, gay people and other minority groups are targets of state persecution there.

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Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin