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Rights organisations criticize Angela Merkel’s new measures to accelerate deportation of failed asylum-seekers

German refugee rights’ organizations have strongly criticised the newly approved measures to accelerate deportation of failed asylum-seekers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet gives security officers powers to search the cellphones of asylum-seekers to ascertain their identity
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet gives security officers powers to search the cellphones of asylum-seekers to ascertain their identity

One of the measures approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet last week gives security officers powers to search the phones of asylum-seekers to ascertain their identity.

Rejected asylum-seekers will likely be kept in custody longer.

Apart from accelerating deportation of rejected asylum-seekers, the new measures will also make it easier for security forces to track those awaiting a decision on their application for asylum.

DW reported that the new plan allows security forces to check the cellphone data of new arrivals. Asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected may be kept in custody for up to 10 days to prevent them from absconding (current rules limit this period to four days).

The cabinet has also eased rules on surveillance of asylum-seekers to allow those under suspicion to be watched more easily. Whenever possible, deportations will be carried out directly from the initial reception centers. Under the newly approved rules, asylum seekers will be required to remain in government shelters for longer.

Over the weekend Peter Altmaier, the chancellor’s chief of staff and the government’s coordinator for refugee affairs, revealed plans to deport a record number of people in 2017.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, whose department drafted the measures said he expected the German parliament to pass them into law “quickly.” Germany’s refugee policy, he said, is always two-fold: integrating those who need help while deporting those whose applications have been rejected, DW reported

Reacting to the new measures, Pro Asyl said they were a “brutalization of the deportation process.”

“The agreed package of measures for tougher deportation policies is a program that will deprive asylum-seekers of hope for protection in Germany and is aimed at discouraging them,” the organization said.

The measures were also criticised by a group of 20 other charities. In a joint statement, they criticized the government’s new package – especially its potential effect on children, who could be forced to stay longer in refugee shelters, and be kept out of schools, DW reported.

Germany’s main opposition party, the socialist Left party, also condemned the new measures. “Cellphones and computers belong to a particularly protected area of privacy,” party leader Katja Kipping told the DPA news agency. The government’s plan amounts to “sacrificing basic rights on the altar of domestic security.”