Germany: Telephone hotline for asylum-seekers willing to return home launched

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge or BAMF) has set up telephone counselling service for refugees and asylum-seekers who are willing to voluntarily return to their home countries.

The call centre service is offered in English and German.

According to the BAMF, asylum-seekers, refugee aid organisations, public institutions and volunteers can use the counselling service to get information and clarifications on the government’s returnee programme.

The hotline can be reached at the central number of the BAMF (0911-9430) from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 3 pm.

The new hotline service provides a direct link between people who are considering returning home voluntarily and competent people who can give them information about the possibilities available.

The existing consultative structures of the federal states (Länder) would be effectively supplemented by the new counselling service, said BAMF Vice-President Uta Dauke. This is an easy way to get advice especially for people in rural areas where there are no advisory services available, he added.

The telephone counsellors will provide information on voluntary return and reintegration programs, as well as about the “StarthilfePlus” scheme launched in February, for which € 40 million has been earmarked.

Last year, there were about 54,000 voluntary departures. The federal government wants to further increase this figure this year.

Berlin is under pressure to act as the migrant influx has boosted a right-wing populist and anti-immigration movement.

Under new measures to speed up repatriations, BAMF is s now pushing for all refugees currently living in Germany to be fingerprinted. Moreover, immigration officials will be allowed to access smartphone’s records and other digital devices of asylum-seekers to help determine their identity and country of origin if they claim to have lost their passport.

BAMF is currently dealing with a backlog of some 430,000 unprocessed applications for asylum.

Sola Jolaoso

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