Berlin (CNSNews.com) – The government of Germany, which has processed more asylum applications than all 27 of its fellow E.U. member-states combined, is considering offering rejected asylum-seekers cash incentives to leave voluntarily.
The initiative comes amid a backlash and protests by pilots refusing to fly migrants who are being deported.
Announcing the plan, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the government would offer up to 3,000 euro ($3,570) for families and up to €1,000 ($1,180) for individuals who voluntarily return to their home countries by the end of February.
The government has been steadily toughening its stance on migration policy, speeding up the deportation process. Last year it listed Afghanistan as a “safe country of origin,” thereby enabling the rejection and deportation of Afghan asylum-seekers.
The policy was suspended after 150 people were killed in an attack in Kabul a year ago, but resumed last month – stoking some controversy, given continuing violence in the region.
The deportations have also encountered roadblocks at airports. On Monday a governmental inquiry reported that pilots have canceling deportation flights to Afghanistan in suspected protest against the expulsion policy.
Since the beginning of this year, 222 planned deportation flights have been stopped by the pilots, it found. Between January and September 2017, the national airline Lufthansa and its Eurowings subsidiary refused to carry 85 planeloads, and the flights were canceled.
Lufthansa Group spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf denied the stopped flights were a form of protest, telling German broadcaster RBB24 he was unaware of “any case where one of our pilots has refused to take them for reasons of conscience.”
The radio station quoted an unidentified Lufthansa pilot as saying that pilots could refuse to take off if a potential deportee answers “no” when asked if he or she wants to take the flight.
“We have to prevent anyone from being freaked out during the flight, and we have to protect the other passengers as well,” the pilot was quoted as saying.
Lufthansa spokesman, Michael Lamberty, told German media pilots sometimes cancel flights due to “security concerns.”
“The decision not to carry a passenger is ultimately made by the pilot on a case-by-case basis. If he or she had the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse to transport the passenger,” he said.
The Interior Ministry in the state of Bavaria has defended the deportation policy, saying that most deportees are criminals, many disappear shortly before they are due to fly out of the country, and local pro-refugee groups are suspected of helping them.
In contrast to forced deportations, de Maiziere’s plan aims to resolve the issue through cash incentives.
“If you voluntarily decide to return [home] by the end of February, in addition to startup help you can provisionally receive housing cost help, for the first 12 months in your homeland,” he told the Bild am Sonntag paper.
“There are opportunities in your homeland,” he said. “We will support you with concrete help for your reintegration.”
Germany already provides rejected asylum-seekers with financial help to return to their home countries, including travel costs. The new plan would provide additional money for rent, building, and home renovations.
The German refugee organization Pro Asyl criticized the initiative, telling the German news agency DPA the government was “trying to entice people to give up their rights in the basest manner.”
The German Office of Migration and Refugees and the court system have been swamped with the large number of asylum applications and cases.
The migration office has made 357,625 decisions on asylum applications so far, compared to 199,405 in all other E.U. member-states combined, Die Welt reported, citing the E.U.’s Eurostat statistics office.
A sharp increase in appeals has compounded the situation. According to the NDR Info radio station, asylum-seekers appealed almost every second decision in the first half of 2017, compared to one in four in 2016.
That period has also seen German courts rule in favor of more than one in four plaintiffs, compared to just over one in ten last year, it said.