Germany Agrees to Return Migrants Thanks to Deal With Italy

Germany and Italy have agreed on the return of migrants who first applied for asylum when entering Europe through the Mediterranean country.

"The deal with Italy is closed. It is just missing two signatures, from my Italian colleague and from me," German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, told the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament, on Thursday.

Seehofer called the deal a "success," but did not explain the details.

Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (from left) give a joint press statement following a meeting in Innsbruck, Austria, on July 11. Germany and Italy have agreed on the return of migrants who first applied for asylum when entering Europe through the Mediterranean country. Barbara Gindl/AFP/Getty

"To save on travel expenses, we will exchange papers," Seehofer said, according to Politico. He noted that the deal is expected to be signed by Matteo Salvini, Italy's deputy prime minister and minister of the interior.

Early this week, Salvini reportedly said that Italy would only sign a deal with Germany if there was a "zero net effect" on immigration numbers. He added that he did not want his country to "take care of a single additional immigrant."

This means that for every 100 people being returned to Italy, another 100 in the country would be redistributed throughout the European Union, leaving Italy's immigration numbers unaffected, according to Deutsche Welle.

A similar deal was made in August when Germany agreed to send back migrants who first applied for asylum in Greece and Spain within 48 hours of their arrival to the country. According to Germany's Interior Ministry, about 150 people who had already applied for asylum in another country had entered Germany from Austria a month before a deal was reached with Greece, reported Reuters.

Seehofer and Salvini have both been critical of migration policies in the past.

"The migration issue is the mother of all problems in this country. I have been saying this for three years. And this is confirmed by many surveys. Many people now associate their social concerns with the migration issue," Seehofer told the Rheinische Post following anti-migrant protests in the city of Chemnitz last month.

Meanwhile, Salvini acknowledged his stance on migration when he first assumed his position as deputy prime minister in June.

"It is not enough to reduce the numbers of people arriving. We need to increase deportations," Salvini said during a visit to Sicily, calling the island "the refugee camp of Europe."

"These are emergency centers, my interest is to work in order to reduce the number of people arriving and increase the number of deportations. This is not easy to do, nor is it possible to do it in a quarter of an hour, but in the coming weeks we want to give new signals, to cut costs and [migrant detention] durations," said Salvini, who promised to deport 500,000 migrants, CNBC reported.