Germany's lower house moves to reject Maghreb, Georgia asylum claims

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, voted to reject asylum claims from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and the Caucasian state of Georgia on Friday by designating them as safe countries.

But the move, long advocated by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and part of a crackdown on immigration following a political shift to the right in Germany, must clear the upper house, where the opposition Greens have said they will block it.

The Greens, whose opposition to a range of measures designed to tighten Germany’s asylum policy has not stopped them making regional election gains, said they would block the measure, as they did after a similar vote by the Bundestag last year.

Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees fuelling a far-right surge in last year’s national election.

Seehofer has since led a faction of right-wing politicians who see their task as addressing the perception of some voters that the government lost control of immigration.

Declaring Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Georgia safe states will make it easier to reject asylum applications.

Seehofer told parliament that an earlier move to classify the countries of the Western Balkans as safe countries of origin had not caused any cases of hardship.

Reporting by Thorsten Severin; writing by Thomas Escritt; editing by Alexander Smith