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Number of Migrants who Left Germany Voluntarily Rises Sharply in 2016


Afghans, whose asylum applications have been rejected, arrive from Germany in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2016.

Around 55,000 migrants who were not eligible for or were refused asylum left Germany voluntarily between January and November 2016, up by 20,000 from the total number who left voluntarily in 2015, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Germany has toughened its stance on immigration in recent months, prompted by concerns about security and integration after admitting more than 1.1 million migrants from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere since early 2015.

Last week a failed asylum seeker who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State militant group killed 12 people when he rammed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, fueling growing criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policy.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted government data showing the number who returned to their homes in the first 11 months of the year. Most returned to Albania, Serbia, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iran, the newspaper said. Those leaving are eligible for one-off support of up to 3,000 euros.

German security officials previously told Reuters that the number of those deported after their asylum requests were rejected rose to almost 23,800 from January to November — up from almost 20,900 in all of 2015.

There has also been a rise in the number of refugees turned away at the borders. A report by the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily said police had turned back 19,720 refugees through the first 11 months -- up from 8,913 in all of 2015. Most were from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. They had been registered in other EU countries.

As public support for her pro-refugee policies wane ahead of September's federal election, Merkel has said it is vital to focus resources on those fleeing war, and to keep public support by deporting foreigners to countries where there is no persecution.

A string of attacks and security alerts involving refugees and migrants this year has boosted support for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, which could complicate Merkel's re-election hopes.

Late on Tuesday, seven refugees from Syria and Iraq aged 15 to 21 were detained in Berlin on charges of attempted murder for trying to set fire to a homeless man in an underground station.

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