BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Olaf Scholz's cabinet on Wednesday classified Moldova and Georgia as so-called “safe countries of origin” meaning asylum seekers from there can be rejected and deported faster than in the past.
The move, once parliament has approved the new regulation, is a further step in efforts to curb migration to Germany as the country struggles to house and integrate more than 1 million refugees who fled the war from Ukraine last year. Different from others fleeing to Germany, Ukrainians do not need to apply for asylum but get a right of residency immediately.
In addition to Ukrainian war refugees, more than 188,000 people applied for asylum in Germany this year. Among those, 6,612 applications came from Georgians and 1,910 came from Moldovans during the period from January to July. However, the approval rate for asylum pleas from Georgians and Moldovans stands currently only 0.15%, the German interior ministry said.
Despite the new regulations, Georgians and Moldovans will be able to continue to apply for asylum, but their chances of approval will be close to non-existent now. Also, the designation as a safe countries of origin shortens legal deadlines, especially for appeals to overturn negative decisions on asylum requests. An appeal has no suspensive effect, meaning people can be deporting during a pending trial.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser praised the Cabinet's decision as an important step toward channeling people who come to Germany for a better life but are not wanted.
More than a tenth of rejected asylum applications comes from Georgia and Moldova, Faeser said.
“So here we can effectively reduce irregular migration very quickly," she added.
The minister said Germany is also in the process of concluding migration agreements with Georgia and Moldova. The government has been trying to finalize migration deals with individual countries to open doors for immigrants with skills that are much needed on Germany's labor market, such as nurses or truck drivers.
The German government defines safe countries of origin as “countries from which it can be assumed, based on the democratic system and the general political situation, that no state persecution is to be feared there in general and that the respective state can protect against non-state persecution in principle.”
Opposition Christian Democrats criticized the new classification as “only a drop in the ocean.”
“In addition to extending border controls, it would also be urgently necessary to classify the Maghreb states of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as safe countries of origin,” the parliamentary faction of the Christian Democrats said in a written statement, adding that the government had not done enough to curb migration..