Germany, Algeria to work more closely on deportations, Merkel says

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Germany and Algeria want to find ways to speed up the repatriation of Algerians living illegally in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday during a visit to Algeria.

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Since around a million asylum seekers reached Germany in 2015, Merkel’s government has been pushing for ways to speed up the process of sending home those whose applications are denied.

Anis Amri, a Tunisian, killed 12 people in the Berlin Christmas market attack in 2016.

Amri’s deportation had been delayed because he had no valid passport, a source of frustration for German officials dealing with the Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan embassies.

“We talked about how to make more efficient that those who have no right to stay will be returned,” Merkel said during her one-day visit when asked about the deportations of Algerians.

She gave no further details.

Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said his government was willing to solve as soon as possible the cases of Algerians eligible for deportation, provided their identities were established.

German authorities say nearly 3,700 Algerians are eligible for deportation, and Ouyahia said 700 of those cases were already being processed. He gave no details.

“Algeria takes back its children,” he said, adding that new digital technology would make identification easier.

German media reported that the number of failed Algerian asylum applicants deported from Germany had risen to 504 in 2017 from 57 in 2015.

Germany wants to declare Algeria, like Tunisia and Morocco, a safe country of origin, which would make it easier to deport asylum seekers from there. Less than 2 percent of Algerian asylum applicants in Germany receive protected status.

Merkel later on Monday met President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algerian state TV said, showing footage of the meeting without giving details of the talks.

The 81-year-old Bouteflika, in office since 1999, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 which has confined him to a wheelchair.

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, Ulf Laessing and Riham Alkoussi; editing by Andrew Roche