Nearly 55,000 migrants who were not eligible for or were likely to be denied asylum left Germany voluntarily in 2016, up by 20,000 from the number who left of their own volition in 2015. This is the largest number in 16 years.
People are primarily returning to the Balkans, with five thousand resettled in Kosovo and Serbia each, and three times that much in Albania alone.
However, another five thousand migrants returned home to Iraq this year, and Germany’s upped repatriations to Afghanistan as well.
The figures are based on documents from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).. Migrants opt for going home of their own accord in favor of being deported not just out of fear of a permanent ban.
Germany's public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle has cited as an example the money that will get a migrant family of five from Afghanistan: they may receive 4,200 euros ($4,400) in addition to a flight, travel money and other funds that can add up to between 1,000 and 3,000 euros per person.
"Germany has controversially labeled Afghanistan a "safe country of origin" and recently upped the number of repatriations to the war-torn country," the outlet says.
Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Nicole Valentini, Italian journalist writing on migration issues.
"When we talk about voluntarily return of asylum seekers from Europe we have to know that 99 percent of them is not voluntarily," she told Sputnik.
"The number of those returning has doubled over the last year for two reasons: the first reason is that people who choose to return to their home country want to avoid a forced repatriation, which is usually is quite psychologically and physically painful," she explained.
The second reason, she said, concerns the deal that Europe has made with different countries like Afghanistan to deport an unlimited number of asylum seekers in exchange of money to the countries from which these asylum seekers come from. This deal is against the international law which prohibits the deportation to areas where people are at risk from war or persecution, the journalist explained.
For many people, she said, it is impossible to return to their normal lives once they get back to their home countries. Especially for the most vulnerable ethnic groups such as the Yazidis and Kurds in Iraq and the Hazaras in Afghanistan.
But these repatriates are just a drop in the sea of migrants still in Germany. More than a million people entered the country over the course of the migrant crisis of the past one and a half years.
According to Deutsche Welle, parallel to an upswing in voluntary repatriation, German police have denied entry at land borders, ports and airports to 19,720 people between January and November 2016. That compares to 8,913 entry denials in all of 2015. A large portion of those stopped at the border came from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.
The German government reimposed border controls at the height of the migration crisis in September 2015, the outlet says. But the number of migrants stopped at the border is deceptive as the border controls were implemented only with Austria, meaning migrants may have entered using alternative routes. Nearly 75 percent of border denials were at the Austrian-German border.
"The political backlash, which has only grown in the wake of a series of terror attacks in Germany, has provided political ammunition to the right-wing, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and led to divisions between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU)."
Commenting on the issue, Nicole Valentini acknowledged that the situation with migrants in Europe "is getting worse."
"Every day, there are many more people fleeing from war-torn countries and the situation is not going to get any better. The situation in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan is terrible, hence Europe has to change its refugee policy or it will be destined to collapse," she stated.
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