Speeding Deportations to Tunisia: Berlin Ponders Voluntary and Forced Migrant Return

Written by | Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Tunisia is not accountable for the Berlin attacks at a Christmas market – said Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, thus effectively rebuffing any responsibility for the events in which 12 people were killed and more than 50 injured. “Let me make one thing perfectly clear – the Tunisian authorities did not commit a single error,” he said. Mr. Chahed met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday (14 February) and said that he deeply regretted what happened in Berlin, adding that “it’s something that deeply concerns all Tunisians, as we ourselves suffered three separate terrorist attacks in 2015.”

Anis Amri, who committed the Berlin attacks, had been monitored by German authorities for more than a year prior to the events. His asylum application was rejected last June but German immigration authorities failed to deport him after Tunisia had not issued a replacement passport that would have allowed him to return. It was reported at that time that Tunisia denied that Mr. Amri was a Tunisian national. Later, Tunisian authorities said that German authorities had provided them with a wrong name.

“Amri was not a terrorist when he left Tunisia in 2011, nor did he show any signs of radicalization,” stressed Mr. Chahed. The suspect, Mr. Amri, is believed to have been exposed to radicalization for the first time when he was detained in an Italian prison. He was shot and killed by Italian police in Milan four days following the attacks. Angela Merkel promised last week to speed up the return of rejected Tunisian refugees and promised that Germany “will make sure how we can work closer together, particularly when it comes to reducing the terror threat.”

During the meeting in Berlin, German Chancellor Angel Merkel also pushed for ways to encourage rejected Tunisian asylum seekers living in Germany to return home. To facilitate voluntary return, Berlin plans to offer more support, which includes educational incentives and financial support for entrepreneurs, but Merkel also stressed that “whoever does not choose to return of their own free will then have to be returned involuntarily.” Mr. Chahed praised the current cooperation between both sides but also urged German authorities to prove that anyone scheduled to be deported back to Tunisia was a genuine national. “Illegal migrants, who often used forged papers, often complicate and delay the process,” he said.

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