German plans to send migrant children to reception centres in Morocco

Angela Merkel, Germany

In a controversial move, Germany is considering plans to open two reception centres in Morocco for repatriated children. According to a leaked document of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees cited by a German newspaper, the centres would have space to receive 200 Moroccan minors and would be run in collaboration with Moroccan non-governmental organisations.

The conditions under which these reception centres would operate have not been specified in detail. But the aim appears to be to allow the government to deport minors without breaching German immigration law. The German Residence Act specifies that in order to deport an unaccompanied foreign minor, the deporting authority must ensure that the minor is either “handed over to a member of his or her family, to a person possessing the right of care and custody or to an appropriate reception centre”.

This plan tallies with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s wider strategy to accelerate the removal of irregular migrants from German territory.

In 2016, Germany and Morocco agreed to collaborate on deporting Moroccan migrants. The German government has also tried to pass a contested law declaring Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria “safe countries of origin” to ease the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers. The law was approved by the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in 2016. But it was then rejected by the upper house, the Bundesrat, in 2017 after opposition parties claimed that arguments to define these countries as “safe” were too weak.

Spain has tried this before

Resorting to reception centres to repatriate Moroccan unaccompanied minors evokes a similar idea launched by Spain in 2005.

Reception centres were meant to accompany the implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed between Morocco and Spain in 2003 over the repatriation of unaccompanied minors. Since the late 1990s, in fact, a flow of Moroccan children has tried to reach Spain by crossing the Gibraltar Strait or by reaching the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

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