Berlin to list Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia as 'safe countries' to stem migrant flow
Germany will place Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of "safe countries of origin", Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel announced Thursday, in a move that will make it easier to reject asylum requests from citizens of these countries.
"Now we will... legally declare the three countries, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as safe countries," Social Democrat leader Gabriel said after a meeting with the heads of the two other coalition parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria's Christian Social Union.
The three agreed a new package of measures intended to reduce the number of asylum seekers in Germany, which saw a influx of around 1.1 million migrants in 2015.
These measures "are there and can very quickly be presented to the cabinet," said Gabriel.
To be classified as a "safe country of origin" means that their nationals would have little chance of winning asylum.
Berlin hopes that the measure will curb the number of migrants from North Africa, who have arrived in increasing numbers in recent months.
Germany has already classified Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo as safe, after tens of thousands of asylum seekers arrived from there.
The arrivals have since dropped as a result of media campaigns in those countries to explain that the chances of obtaining a residency permit in Germany were minimal.
Calls have multiplied in recent weeks to step up expulsions of migrants from North Africa after a rash of sex assaults in Cologne on New Year's Eve blamed by police partly on Algerians and Moroccans.
The attacks had coincided with a sharp rise in asylum requests from those countries.
Berlin is also pressing Algiers and Rabat to take back their nationals who have failed to win asylum, to free up resources to deal with bona fide refugees.
© 2016 AFP