The number of deportations in Germany nearly doubled to more than 20,000 in 2015 and is expected to rise further this year as the government plans measures to speed up asylum procedures and facilitate deportations, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.
Germany has borne the brunt of Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War Two with over one million people having arrived in the country in 2015, most fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is under growing pressure over her handling of the crisis, with her popular support waning and some in her conservative party wanting upper limits on migrants.
Sexual attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities at New Year which have been largely blamed on migrants have deepened public scepticism about Merkel’s policy.
Her government has long said it wants to speed up the processing of asylum applications and that anyone who is rejected must leave, but there is a big backlog and the number of new asylum applications far outnumbers deportations.
In 2015, German authorities deported 20,888 foreigners verusus 10,840 in the previous year, the interior ministry said.
In addition, some 37,200 migrants left Germany voluntarily after having received financial help from the federal states which are in charge of deportations, the ministry added.
The number of asylum requests more than doubled to some 477,000 in 2015. It is expected to rise further as officials work through the piles of unprocessed applications from the some 1.1 million migrants authorities registered last year.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere have outlined plans to speed up the deportation of foreigners who commit physical and sexual assaults, resist police or damage property – crimes which mostly carry probationary sentences but do not trigger expulsion under current law.
In addition, Merkel’s conservative party agreed on Monday that Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia – troubled by unrest rather than full-blown conflict – should be designated safe countries, cutting their citizens’ chance of being granted asylum to virtually zero.