BERLIN — Germany’s interior minister urged North African leaders Monday to streamline procedures to accept more deported migrants as part of stepped-up efforts by Germany to cope with a flood of refugees and others pouring into Europe.
The appeal comes as European nations take measures to control the unprecedented exodus of migrants and asylum seekers from war-racked places such as Syria and Iraq.
Police in Macedonia fired tear gas and stun grenades Monday when several hundred migrants tried to break through a blockade on the country’s border with Greece, the main entry point for migrants often seeking to reach Germany and other wealthy European Union partners.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who began a three-day trip by visiting Morocco before flying Monday to Algeria, wants North African nations to roll back bureaucratic hurdles on accepting deported migrants. De Maizière plans to travel to Tunisia on Tuesday.
He also wants to declare Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia “safe” countries. This would make it possible to have accelerated reviews of asylum requests from citizens of the three countries and return many of them home.
Germany is struggling to cope with more than 1.1 million refugees and economic migrants who arrived in the past year.
Human rights organizations, however, have harshly criticized the German plan. “These countries aren’t safe. Human rights are disregarded on a regular basis there, and people are being tortured,” said Günter Burkhardt, managing director of the refugee advocacy group Pro Asyl.
In Morocco, de Maizière told reporters that an agreement was reached with officials, including Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, to speed the return of Moroccan nationals.
The two countries would cooperate in establishing the identity of migrants with the help of fingerprint data kept by Moroccan authorities. “The Moroccan side has agreed to reply within 45 days,” de Maizière said. He added that the measure would particularly target Moroccan asylum seekers who arrived last year, including some who had pretended to be Syrians fleeing the civil war.
The numbers of newcomers to Germany from North African countries, especially from Morocco and Algeria, rose sharply at the end of last year, with more than 26,000 in total arriving.
Although fewer than 4 percent of asylum seekers from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were granted some form of refugee status, the number of deportations was low: 136 migrants were sent back to their home countries from Germany, and an additional 250 were sent to other E.U. states.
The North African countries are not the only ones Germany is trying to persuade to take back more people.
According to Die Welt newspaper, the German government recently sent letters to 17 “particularly problematic” African and Asian states, calling for more intensive cooperation on deportations of rejected migrants.
German government officials would not confirm how many letters have been sent and to which countries. But they conceded that several states were slow to identify their nationals and issue the travel papers needed for repatriations.
Germany had urged the countries to accept temporary E.U. travel documents, the officials said.
Last week, a chartered flight with 125 Afghans left Germany for Kabul as part of a program to help migrants return home voluntarily.
The German government paid for the flight, and participants also received about $540. The initiative was brokered by de Maizière during an earlier visit to the Afghan capital.
Last month, North Rhine-Westphalia’s interior minister, Ralf Jäger, announced that his western German state would no longer take any asylum seekers from Morocco, citing fears about rising crime. The move followed mass sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve; many of the assailants were thought to be from North African countries.