BERLIN, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Germany’s coalition government on Wednesday listed Georgia and Moldova as safe countries of origin in a bid to cut those countries’ asylum applications, which are almost always rejected.
The cabinet approved a draft law from Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as part of a series of measures agreed at a two-day cabinet meeting at Schloss Meseberg, a castle outside Berlin.
The move means asylum applications from these countries could be processed more quickly and will lead to quicker deportations of rejected applicants.
According to the ministry, 99.9% of applications from both countries were rejected in 2022 and the first half of 2023. Together they account for more than a tenth of all rejected applications. Last year, 8,865 Georgians and 5,218 people from Moldova applied for asylum in Germany.
The ministry defines safe countries of origin as those in which there is fundamentally no fear of state prosecution and in which the state protects its citizens.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government this year tried to make it easier for skilled immigrants to acquire German citizenship to address chronic labor shortages.
But migration remains a politically charged issue and has fueled the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is leading most mainstream parties in polls and is on track to win in upcoming state elections.
Refugee rights group Pro Asyl criticized the government’s actions towards Georgia and Moldova, saying it ignored the fact that Russia was occupying breakaway territories in both countries, endangering security.
Pro Asyl also highlighted what he said were setbacks for the rule of law in Georgia and LGBTIQ+ rights, as well as the issue of press freedom in Moldova.
Georgia has passed laws against discrimination and hate crimes, but LGBT+ rights groups say there is a lack of adequate protection from law enforcement and homophobia remains widespread in the socially conservative South Caucasus country.
Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Mike Harrison
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