EU threatens visa restrictions for countries that don't accept rejected asylum-seekers

The European Union is upping the pressure on countries that don't take back rejected asylum-seekers by making it harder to obtain visas, a newspaper reported. The threat has already resulted in a deal with Bangladesh.

The European Union has decided to take measures against countries that don't cooperate with repatriating migrants who have been denied asylum, according to a German newspaper report published on Sunday.

Welt am Sonntag reported that the 28-member bloc agreed to levy visa penalties on such countries, making it more difficult for their citizens to secure a visa to an EU country.

Read moreWhat is the status of German deportations to Afghanistan?

The European Commission confirmed to Welt am Sonntag that the visa threat has already resulted in a deal with Bangladesh, with officials in the country agreeing to comply with standard procedures for repatriations.

In the spring, a majority of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy originated from Bangladesh.

Talks with other countries, particularly several African nations, are ongoing, Welt am Sonntag reported.

Read moreDemonstrators in Leipzig decry Afghan deportations

'Important approach' or 'Trump practice?'

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere welcomed the EU's decision, telling the newspaper that if there are regular difficulties when it comes to deporting rejected asylum-seekers, "it is only logical, in turn, to tack on stricter entry conditions for people from this country."

De Maiziere explained that the measures specifically target "those responsible for the slow readmissions, that is to say, officials and diplomats with passports of the country concerned."

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The minister noted that the deal with Bangladesh proves that the visa-pressure tactic works "when the EU-member states act together."

Bavarian state Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann called the new tactic "a very important approach." He told Welt am Sonntag that the process to repatriate rejected asylum-seekers only moves forward with difficulty "especially with regards to African nations."

"The European Union and the [German] government must increase pressure" in regards to those nations, Herrmann said.

Herrmann's Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister-party to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has been pushing for a yearly cap on asylum-seekers in Germany, particularly after losing many voters to the far-right Alternative for Germany.

Not all were pleased with the EU's latest measure, with Left Party co-head Katja Kipping questioning the reasoning behind the move.

"The Left Party does not support visa restrictions for repatriation-unwilling countries because it impacts the wrong people: tourists, students or people who want to work here," she told Welt am Sonntag.

The EU is using "questionable Trump practices by blaming ordinary citizens for their government's policies," Kipping added.


By the planeload

On September 12, 2017, a flight left Germany's Düsseldorf airport for Afghanistan, carrying 15 rejected asylum seekers in what is the first group deportation to the country since a deadly car bomb blast near the German embassy in Kabul in late May. The opposition Greens and Left party slammed the resumption of deportations to Afghanistan as "cynical."


Fighting for a chance

In March 2017, high school students in Cottbus made headlines with a campaign to save three Afghan classmates from deportation. They demonstrated, collected signatures for a petition and raised money for an attorney to contest the teens' asylum rejections - safe in the knowledge that their friends, among them Wali (above), can not be deported as long as proceedings continue.


'Kabul is not safe'

"Headed toward deadly peril," this sign reads at a demonstration in Munich airport in February. Protesters often show up at German airports where the deportations take place. Several collective deportations left Germany in December 2016, and between January and May 2017. Protesters believe that Afghanistan is too dangerous for refugees to return.


From Würzburg to Kabul

Badam Haidari, in his mid-30s, spent seven years in Germany before he was deported to Afghanistan in January 2017. He had previously worked for USAID in Afghanistan and fled the Taliban, whom he still fears years later – hoping that he will be able to return to Germany after all.


Persecuted minorities

In January of the same year, officials deported Afghan Hindu Samir Narang from Hamburg, where he had lived with his family for four years. Afghanistan, the young man told German public radio, "is not safe." Minorities from Afghanistan who return because asylum is denied face religious persecution in the Muslim country. Deportation to Afghanistan is "life-threatening" to Samir, says


Reluctant returnees

Rejected asylum seekers deported from Germany to Kabul, with 20 euros in their pockets from the German authorities to tide them over at the start, can turn to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for assistance. Funded by the German Foreign Office, members of the IPSO international psychosocial organization counsel the returnees.