Germany Admits Military Planes May Be Necessary to Deport Failed Asylum-Seekers

Germany has touted its welcoming policy for refugees. But for economic migrants, there just might not be enough space.

<> on April 8, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
<> on April 8, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
<> on April 8, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

In August, as a wave of refugees flooded out of the Syrian civil war and into an increasingly wary Europe, Germany tendered them an invitation. Immigration officials urged them to come to Germany, where they promised to stamp refugee passports and process asylum claims even if they hadn’t been registered elsewhere in the EU.

But on Wednesday that welcome mat was rolled up a bit: German officials admitted they have become so overwhelmed with requests that they will consider using military aircraft to deport those who may have come in the same time period but who they deem to be economic migrants, not refugees.

"If [economic grounds] is the only reason for being here, then we will have to say more strongly to these people: You must go home," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an event in Frankfurt Wednesday. Her office underscored the message, hinting that commercial flights might not suffice to deal with the outflow.

In August, as a wave of refugees flooded out of the Syrian civil war and into an increasingly wary Europe, Germany tendered them an invitation. Immigration officials urged them to come to Germany, where they promised to stamp refugee passports and process asylum claims even if they hadn’t been registered elsewhere in the EU.

But on Wednesday that welcome mat was rolled up a bit: German officials admitted they have become so overwhelmed with requests that they will consider using military aircraft to deport those who may have come in the same time period but who they deem to be economic migrants, not refugees.

“If [economic grounds] is the only reason for being here, then we will have to say more strongly to these people: You must go home,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an event in Frankfurt Wednesday. Her office underscored the message, hinting that commercial flights might not suffice to deal with the outflow.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a press conference: “Sending people back on commercial airlines takes priority, but if there is insufficient capacity then … we will consider making use of military aircraft.”

The fact Germany may soon be looking to use military equipment to deport migrants shows how hard it is for Europe’s 28-member union, let alone its leading member taking charge on the migration crisis, to find a workable answer to the most pressing refugee crisis in modern European history. The crisis has strained ties between members of the EU that disagree on both how to disperse the migrants and asylum-seekers who have already arrived in Europe and how to stop more from embarking on the often perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

Merkel is under intense pressure from her own political party to better manage Europe’s refugee crisis, in which more than 10,000 asylum-seekers arrive in Germany each day. Although the vast majority are fleeing conflict in the Middle East, others are fleeing poverty in the Balkans or sub-Saharan Africa and do not qualify for refugee status under German law.

Right-wing Germans, as in many other European countries, have become increasingly frustrated by the large number of asylum-seekers crossing their borders each day. Many of the migrants braved a dangerous boat ride across the Mediterranean or walked across Europe to get there.

In September, the migration official who suggested that Germany accept refugees no matter whether they had been stamped or not in other EU countries stepped down.

And earlier this month, the southern German state of Bavaria, which borders Austria, said it would take Berlin to court if the capital couldn’t slow down the influx of refugees.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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