In a bid to increase the number of asylum-seekers choosing to leave Germany voluntarily, the country’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and the International Organisation for Migration on Thursday (11 May) launched www.returningfromgermany.de, a new online portal providing information for those interested in voluntarily returning to their home country.
ReturningFromGermany.de expands on a similar scheme that started in February. The programme “StartHilfe Plus,” which loosely translates to “start help plus,” began on 1 February.
As well as offering an insight into important factors such as health services and the current labour market situation in the relevant home country, the Returning From Germany site also details both the financial assistance offered to people according to their nationality in Germany as well as reintegration programmes available in their homelands.
Catering to individual needs
The site is currently in German and English but will be available in the coming weeks in the languages spoken in the main countries of origin, including Arabic, French and Balkan state languages.
The launch of the portal coincided with the release of a new BAMF report showing that in the first quarter of 2017, the number of refugees who voluntarily returned home was down almost 40 per cent compared to the same period of 2016.
According to BAMF, between January and March, 8,468 refugees left the country of their own free will compared to 13,848 returnees over the same time period last year.
The federal government is investigating the reasons for the sharp decline. Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, however, Ole Schröder, a parliamentary state secretary in Germany’s Interior Ministry, said the drop in returns could be attributed to the huge influx of refugees who crossed Germany’s borders at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015.
Making voluntary return the ‘better option’
With around 30,000 rejected asylum-seekers currently required to leave Germany, Berlin is keen to encourage more people to leave voluntarily – sometimes even before a ruling has been made on their asylum applications.
“Those who have no prospects of staying in Germany must leave as swiftly as possible,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.
Last year saw the deportation of 25,375 failed asylum-seekers, an increase of 21.5 per cent compared to 2015. But paying migrants and refugees to return on their own accord is also more financially beneficial for the German government than going through the expensive process of deporting them.
According to Schröder, however, in order for government efforts to encourage voluntary returns to succeed, “People who refuse to leave the country voluntarily must be consistently sent back to their home countries.”
“Only then will voluntary return actually be the better option.”
© Deutsche Welle