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German ministry wants migrants returned to Africa

EUROPE
By Reuters | Nov 7th 2016 | 2 min read
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Interior Ministry wants to be picking up migrants at sea and returning them to Africa. (Photo: Reuters)

The German Interior Ministry wants to stop migrants from ever reaching Europe’s Mediterranean coast. The ministry wants to be picking them up at sea and returning them to Africa, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday.

In what would be a huge shift for a country with one of the most generous asylum policies, the ministry says the European Union should adopt an Australian-style system under which migrants intercepted at sea are sent for processing at camps in third countries.

“The elimination of the prospect of reaching the European coast could convince migrants to avoid embarking on the life-threatening and costly journey in the first place,” the paper quoted a ministry spokeswoman as saying.

“The goal must be to remove the basis for people-smuggling organisations and to save migrants from the life-threatening journey.”

The ministry’s proposal calls for migrants picked up in the Mediterranean - most of whom set off from Libya - to be sent to Tunisia, Egypt or other north African states to apply for asylum from there. If their asylum applications are accepted, the migrants could then be transported safely to Europe.

The ministry is headed by Thomas de Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. Merkel has been under fire for her open-door refugee policy, with her party losing votes to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party in recent regional elections.

The ministry said there were no concrete plans at EU-level about the proposal, but opposition politicians condemned the plan. Bernd Riexinger, head of the opposition Left party, said it would be “a humanitarian scandal and a further step toward elimination of the right to asylum,” the paper reported.

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