Germany says to toughen screening of asylum seekers

Personal interviews will be reintroduced for all applicants, including Syrians

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Germany will toughen its screening process for anyone seeking refugee status, the interior minister said Thursday, as the country expects close to one million newcomers this year.

Personal interviews will be reintroduced for all applicants, including Syrians, who have for the past year only had to provide information in writing, Thomas de Maiziere said.

“I have deemed it necessary to reintroduce individual assessments for all refugees and asylum seekers -- regardless of which country they come from,” the minister said, without naming a start date.

The stricter controls were needed “on security grounds” and to “ascertain identities and prevent abuse”, following cases in which asylum seekers had used false Syrian passports.

Germany would send back most Afghans, now the second biggest group of arrivals after Syrians, de Maiziere said at a meeting with Germany’s 16 state interior ministers.

The ministers had agreed that “repatriations to safe areas of Afghanistan are permitted in principle,” he said at a press conference of the meeting in the western city of Koblenz.

De Maiziere said Berlin and Kabul would step up cooperation to fight human trafficking and information campaigns to dissuade people from embarking on the arduous journey to Europe.

Non-governmental organisation Pro Asyl criticised the minister’s decision, saying the resumed individual assessments would slow the process and trap refugees “in months-long waiting loops”.

Pro Asyl head Guenter Burkhardt also argued it was irresponsible to send people back to strife-torn
Afghanistan, arguing that the country has “no regions that can be considered permanently secure”.

“This is a gamble with human lives,” he said.

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