The German Cabinet has approved legislation intended to ease the deportation of unsuccessful asylum-seekers as Chancellor Olaf Scholz seeks to defuse migration as a political problem.
The draft legislation, which would need parliamentary approval to take effect, foresees increasing the maximum length of pre-deportation custody from 10 days to 28 and specifically facilitating the deportation of people who are members of a criminal organisation.
It also would authorise residential searches for documentation that enables officials to firmly establish a person’s identity, as well as remove authorities’ obligation to give advance notice of deportations in some cases.
Germany’s shelters for migrants and refugees have been filling up in recent months as significant numbers of asylum-seekers add to more than a million Ukrainians who have arrived since the start of Russia’s war in their homeland.
Mr Scholz has signalled a new desire to take charge of migration issues following regional elections on October 8 in which voters punished his quarrelsome three-party coalition.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser first announced the new legislation two weeks ago.
Mr Scholz said last week that Germany needs to start deporting “on a large scale” migrants who are not entitled to stay.
“To protect the fundamental right to asylum, we must significantly limit irregular migration,” Ms Faeser said on Wednesday. “Those who have no right to stay must leave our country again.”
She said Germany has deported about 27% more people this year so far than a year earlier, “but there is a significant need for action”.
The majority of rejected asylum-seekers in Germany still have at least temporary permission to stay for reasons that can include illness, a child with residency status, or a lack of ID.
It remains to be seen how much difference the new rules will make.
Deportations can fail for a variety of reasons, including those the legislation addresses, but also a lack of co-operation by migrants’ home countries.
Germany is trying to strike agreements with various nations to address that problem while also creating opportunities for legal immigration.
Ms Faeser said she also wants to increase the minimum and maximum sentences for people who smuggle migrants, and hopes the Cabinet can approve those changes in early November.
She said she plans to extend by at least 20 days checks on Germany’s borders with Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The government notified the European Commission on October 16 of border checks lasting an initial 10 days.