German interior minister floats idea of returning migrants to Greece

DW — German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Sunday said he wanted to send migrants back to Greece.

“We have done a lot in Europe in order to improve the refugee situation in Greece,” de Maiziere told the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper. “This must have consequences that will enable refugees to be sent back to Greece according to the Dublin regulations.”

The EU’s Dublin regulations require the member state where a person first arrived in the bloc to process the asylum application. Due to deficiencies in the Greek asylum processing system and the sheer number of people arriving in Greece, Germany has suspended deportations back to Greece since 2011.

De Maiziere said the European Union first needed to develop a common approach to refugees and Germany could not implement such a policy alone. “When we tackle this problem alone, then there is the danger that in a short amount of time the administrative courts will block deportations,” he said.

The comments come a year after Germany opened its borders to some 1 million people, many of whom first arrived in the EU through Greece. Not all arrivals are qualified for asylum in Germany. Processing asylum applications and deportation is a long and slow process.

There are still more than 57,000 migrants in Greece. Many have applied for asylum in Greece after the prospects of reaching northern Europe faded with the closing of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey deal to send migrants back across the Aegean to camps in Turkey.

The refugee crisis has tested Germany’s ability to integrate and provide for asylum seekers, leading to a potential public backlash ahead of next year’s national elections.