Germany Begins Paying (Bribing?) Migrants for Them to Go Back to Their Countries

A former airport that was converted into an emergency shelter for migrants and refugees in Berlin is seen on Feb. 25. (Rainer Jensen/European Pressphoto Agency)
A former airport that was converted into an emergency shelter for migrants and refugees in Berlin is seen on Feb. 25. (Rainer Jensen/European Pressphoto Agency)

A contentious deal struck Friday between the European Union and Turkey aims to finally halt the historic wave of irregular migration to Europe from the Middle East and beyond. But Germany, ground zero of the refu­gee crisis, faces a separate problem — what to do about all those who are already here.

The rapid rate of arrivals in the once-welcoming nation has forced a backlog of 770,000 asylum requests. About half of them, authorities say, will be rejected. That means figuring out how to get the asylum seekers who cannot stay to leave. With deportations on such a scale seen as problematic at best, the country has come up with a solution: Pay — some say bribe — them.

By the time his offer came, Lauand Sadek was already regretting his arduous trek from Iraq to Germany.

A month had passed since he arrived in the promised land of migrants, yet the 21-year-old was still stuck in a crowded refugee camp. Unable to speak German, he hardly went out. Then this overwhelmed nation made him an interesting proposition: Go back home, and we’ll help build you a better life there.

“I was alone and confused,” Sadek said via Skype from Iraq, where he voluntarily returned in December. He made the choice after the German government offered him a plane ticket and up to 6,000 euros (roughly $6,540) to invest in a small business — a little grocery store in Irbil.

“I would have stayed in Germany longer, but their offer helped me understand,” he said. “It was time to go.”

The offer suggests the philosophy being embraced on this side of the Atlantic, where mass deportations are considered not only a last resort, but also a less effective tool than persuading migrants to choose to leave. Pointing to the many Mexicans who are deported from the United States but soon try to make their way back, the Germans and some of their European neighbors are also seeking ways to coax migrants to leave permanently.

“If you move me because I’m starving and I’m sent back and I’m still starving, then I’ll just try again,” said Eugenio Ambrosi, European Union director of the International Organization for Migration.

Germany, with its Nazi and Cold War memories of police state violence, is known for its gentle treatment of illegal migrants. And in years past, legal loopholes and other means of delay meant that few were deported.

But the challenge the country faces today is unprecedented. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door stance for those fleeing war in the Middle East turned it into a magnet. In addition to the would-be refugees from Syria and Iraq, job seekers from Morocco and Bangladesh flocked here with stories of persecution back home. The latter stand almost no chance of winning legal asylum.

To push them out, Germany’s answer encompasses both threats and inducements, including offers of extra cash, business investment grants, even the promise of vocational training if migrants agree to voluntarily go home.

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SOURCE: Anthony Faiola 
The Washington Post