Germany, Europe's Great Welcomer, To Tighten Asylum Rules on Refugees

Germany asylum controls
German federal police control cars on a highway near the border with Austria on January 28. Germany has announced that refugees from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are unlikely to be granted asylum. Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Germany has announced plans to add the North African countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to its list of "safe countries," as it tries to reduce asylum applications.

Sigmar Gabriel, the country's economy minister, said citizens from those three countries would now be unlikely to gain asylum. Germany, which received over 1.1 million requests for refuge in 2015, is hoping to prevent a repeat of this in 2016.

The country's announcement on Friday came a day after 26 refugees drowned off the coast of Greece when their boat capsized, the BBC reports. Gabriel said the decision had been made following talks within the governing coalition. He added that refugees with restricted asylum status will have to wait two years before they can bring their relatives to Germany. Morocco has already agreed to the proposal, saying that it will repatriate any of its nationals who have travelled to Germany illegally.

The question of how to deal with Germany's refugee crisis has grown increasingly weighty in recent weeks. The Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has vowed to take Merkel's government to court unless it stems the flow of asylum seekers, the AFP reports. The public mood also shifted against welcoming refugees following a string of sexual assaults in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve. Many of the attackers, who worked in gangs, were asylum seekers.

Finland and Sweden have meanwhile announced plans this week to deport tens of thousands of failed asylum seekers. The two nations have received some of the highest numbers of arrivals per capita in the EU. On Thursday, Finland said it expects to deport around 21,000 of the 32,000 refugees who arrived in 2015. A day earlier, Sweden said over the coming years it could deport as many as 80,000 people.