Germany Tightens Refugee Policy as Finland Joins Sweden in Deportations

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TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Germany has moved to toughen its asylum policies as Finland and Sweden announced plans to deport tens of thousands of people in a bid to contain the migrant crisis.

Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice chancellor, announced that Germany would place Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of “safe countries of origin” – meaning that migrants from those countries would have little chance of winning asylum.

Some migrants would also be blocked from bringing their families to join them in Germany for two years, Gabriel said.

The tougher rules come after Germany, the European Union’s powerhouse economy, took in some 1.1 million migrants in 2015 – many of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fierce pressure in recent months to reverse her open-arms policy to those fleeing war and persecution, including opposition from within her own conservative camp.

Finland meanwhile joined Sweden on Thursday in announcing plans to deport tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers, the Guardian reported.

The two Nordic countries are both struggling to cope with an influx of refugees and migrants fleeing misery in the Middle East and elsewhere – receiving amongst the highest numbers of arrivals per capita in the EU.

The Finnish government expects to deport around two thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers that arrived in 2015, Paivi Nerg, administrative director of the interior ministry, told AFP.

“In principle we speak of about two-thirds, meaning approximately 65% of the 32,000 will get a negative decision (on their asylum applications),” she told AFP.

Nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea last year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The cutoff on migrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia follows a chorus of demands in recent weeks to step up expulsions after a rash of sex assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve blamed by police on North Africans.

As Europe struggles to respond to its biggest migration crisis since the Second World War, a top Dutch politician said the Netherlands was working with some EU members on a plan to send migrants back to Turkish soil.

The proposal would see asylum granted to up to 250,000 others already hosted by Turkey, Diederik Samsom said.

But rights group Amnesty International blasted the plan, saying it was “fundamentally flawed since it would hinge on illegally returning asylum seekers and refugees”.

The UN’s new refugee chief Filippo Grandi said on Thursday that rich countries have the means to take in the world’s refugees, despite the complex political situation in Europe.

“Einstein was a refugee. We should not forget that.”

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