More and more immigrants are seeking asylum in Germany – and beyond. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between July and October 2023 the number of migrants who arrived in Italy via Tunisia exceeded 56,000. Many of them attempt to continue their journey towards central and northern Europe. Around 250,000 people have already applied for asylum in Germany as of the end of September. Most come from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Recently Chancellor Olaf Solz, speaking to the magazine DER SPIEGEL, announced mass deportations with fast track procedures for those who do not have the right to stay in the country. It is a political gamble that may decide the future of “co-government” in Berlin. The Scholz initiative “carries a political risk, especially for Scholz himself,” comments DER SPIEGEL in its latest issue.

African countries are “key”.

The problem is that “mass deportations” do not depend only on the political will of the government or the efficiency of the state apparatus. Often the countries of origin themselves refuse to accept their citizens back. Berlin is now pursuing bilateral agreements with African countries, providing incentives for the return of migrants. Is it just financial incentives?

An answer from the General Secretary of the co-ruling Liberals (FDP) Bijan Jir Sarai, on the first program of the German television (ARD): “The issue is not only about money”, the German politician points out. “Money always plays a role, but the point is to make immigration deals that will be a win win situation for everyone. Which are beneficial for those countries that want to send immigrants back, but also for the countries of origin, for example by providing channels for legal immigration. Either for studies or for work.”

Model agreements with Georgia, Moldova

In this sense, Germany seeks to conclude bilateral agreements with Tunisia and Morocco. But based on a bilateral agreement, the Tunisian government, for example, would commit to accepting only Tunisian citizens who had requested asylum in Europe and not the (far greater number) of third-country nationals arriving in Europe via Tunisia. Is this really enough to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers?

“We need many different agreements,” says Bijan Jir Sarai, “but already the agreements we are pursuing in this regard are an important step. For example, the mere fact that Georgia and Moldova are now considered ‘safe countries of origin’ has reduced irregular immigration to Germany by 10%. The next step would be to designate Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as ‘safe countries of origin’.

The possibilities for a bilateral agreement are expected to be explored by the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Feser, who is visiting Morocco today. At the same time, Chancellor Olaf Solz is touring Nigeria and Ghana, with immigration and energy cooperation dominating the agenda. According to information from ARD, Nigeria is a special case, as it still refuses to recognize the German documents for the deportation of immigrants.

Reduced benefits for immigrants

At the same time, the co-ruling Liberal Party (FDP) proposes to reduce benefits for asylum seekers in Germany. He even criticizes the fact that, while there is an increase in the number of beneficiaries in the state services for the provision of benefits, there is no corresponding increase in the number of people in the labor market.

“We must be pragmatic and discuss immigration as they discuss it in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand,” emphasizes the General Secretary of the FDP. “They are saying clearly what immigration they want in the labor market, but they are also saying clearly that they do not want immigration that is limited to the welfare system…”