German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere awaits the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, September 2, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is seeking to toughen asylum laws by sending migrants back to the first European Union country they reached and by reducing benefits, under a draft law seen by AFP Thursday.
The draft, which has not yet been approved by the council of ministers, aims to discourage asylum-seekers flowing into Germany, which is expecting this year's influx to spike to up to a million migrants from 200,000 last year.
Such a law, if passed, would represent a major reversal on Germany's easing of asylum laws for Syrians.
Europe's biggest economy has become the top destination for people fleeing wars and misery in Syria and elsewhere. Many of them have reached Germany after taking a perilous route through the Balkans and central Europe.
Conservative De Maiziere wants the so-called Dublin Regulation, which normally requires people to make their asylum claims in the first EU country they enter, to be enforced again after Germany said in August it would no longer apply to Syrians.
If his draft is approved, it could leave dozens of thousands of people who have reached Germany in recent weeks out in the cold.
It would also leave migrants who are refused asylum but who cannot be deported to their home countries under German law with neither the right to work nor the right to social benefits, putting them in an impossible situation.
In a separate development, the head of Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees, Manfred Schmidt, resigned Thursday, citing "personal reasons".
The office had repeatedly come in for criticism amid a huge backlog in handling a record wave of asylum requests as Europe faces its worst migration crisis since World War II.