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European Leaders Develop Deportation Policy To Slow Flow Of Migrants


The International Organization for Migration says the number of refugees and migrants arriving on Greek islands is going up. Last week alone, there were about 7,000 people. European leaders are hoping to lower these numbers by moving quickly to deport people who don't qualify for asylum. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, that deportation policy is a work in progress.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Deportation is the only constant in the life of Indho Abyan. The 27-year-old Somali was smuggled to Hungary as a teenager where he was given refugee status nine years ago. Things didn't work out.

INDHO ABYAN: There's no jobs, no studies, no education, no help from the government. You will only lose yourself on the streets.

NELSON: He tried to gain residency in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and twice in the U.K., but they deported him back to Hungary because he'd already received asylum there.

ABYAN: And it's really, really painful to be this situation for just too many years. And if I would have the opportunity, by this time, I could be a man who brings something to society.

NELSON: But Abyan is facing deportation again, this time from Germany, where he lives in Hamburg and is trying to get a high school degree. That's because Berlin and other European governments don't want refugees deciding where they end up within the European Union. Officials say it would only encourage more people to come here. Abyan came to Germany three years ago. The Northern Lutheran Church granted the young Muslim man sanctuary while his claim was being reviewed. The chances of his being able to stay are slim given recent efforts in Berlin to tighten up Germany's asylum law.


THOMAS DE MAIZIERE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters such changes were necessary because nearly half of the asylum-seekers during the first half of this year were not eligible for refugee status. He says they need to be told, in no uncertain terms, that they must leave Germany. That worries Constanze Funck. She's a deacon at the Northern Lutheran Church and is working on Abyan's case.

CONSTANZE FUNCK: It's very difficult what the government is thinking through at the moment. We see that there are many human rights violations, and we are very critical about it.

NELSON: Refugee advocates in Brussels share such concerns. While less than 2 out of 5 migrants deemed to be illegally in the EU were actually deported last year, European leaders are moving quickly to step up such returns. But where the migrants will be returned to is not consistent. Focusing on deportations is shortsighted, says Maria Giovanna Manieri. She is with the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants.

MARIA GIOVANNA MANIERI: If the European Union does not address the issue of establishing more regular routes for migrants to come to the European Union either to seek international protection or to work or join their families, I'm afraid that our borders will still be very crowded.

NELSON: She says for now, the talk of deportations is not slowing the number of arrivals. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.