Germany offers year of rent to asylum seekers who return home

A "Your country. Your future, Now" poster from Germany's Interior Ministry.
A "Your country. Your future, Now" poster from Germany's Interior Ministry. Copyright REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Copyright REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
By Andrea BuringAlice Tidey
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The German Interior Ministry's latest repatriation campaign has drawn criticism.


Germany's Interior Ministry has launched a controversial campaign promising to pay a year's worth of rent to asylum seekers who "voluntarily" return to their country of origin.

Posters headlined "Your country. Your future. Now!" have appeared around the German capital recently, written in several languages, including French, English, Arabic and Russian.

The Ministry of Interior has confirmed to Euronews that the posters are part of the country's "Returning From Germany" programmes, which hope to boost the number of asylum seekers voluntarily returning to their country of origin.

The campaign promotes a repatriation programme through which asylum seekers can get additional assistance if they apply to leave before December 31.

Returnees would receive housing assistance in the form of support for rent, construction or renovation works, or for basic facilities for a kitchen or bathroom, with the overall amount capped at €3,000 for a family or €1,000 for a single person.

Nearly one million people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East and Africa arrived in Germany in 2016, with the country recording more than 700,000 applications for asylum that year.

Although the number plummeted by 70% the following year, the country still received some 200,000 asylum requests or a third of all applications made throughout the European Union. It was followed by Italy and France, which dealt with 127,000 and 91,000 applications respectively, according to Eurostat.

The influx of people has led to a political backlash against Germany's ruling coalition, which suffered heavy losses in several regional elections as well as in the federal elections. These forced Chancellor Angela Merkel to announce last month that she would not seek re-election at the end of the current term in 2021.

Still, the campaign has raised eyebrows with some denouncing it as cynical and xenophobic.

The wording of the message on the poster is unclear, leading some migrants legally residing in the country to think the campaign is also aimed at them, despite the fact that it is only targeted at asylum seekers whose claims have either been rejected or are still pending review.

The timing has also drawn comparisons with winter sales, with the campaign running from September 15 to December 31.

Germany already offers different kinds of financial incentives for asylum seekers to return home.

Returnees who decide to leave before their procedure is complete can receive up to €1,200.  Those who decide to leave within the period set for their departure after their claim has been rejected can get €800.

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