BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is heading to Egypt and Tunisia this week to discuss migration and development in the North Africa nations.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday that Berlin is interested in helping Egypt strengthen its coastguard and clamp down on illegal trafficking across the Mediterranean, which leads to thousands of deaths each year.
Merkel will visit Egypt on Thursday and Tunisia on Friday. Beyond meeting the two countries’ leaders, she will talk to Muslim and Coptic Christian faith leaders and members of civil society.
The visit to Tunisia will have acute significance as Anis Amri, the man who killed 12 people in a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market after his asylum request had been rejected was from the country. Several attempts to deport Amri failed, prompting German officials to vow to speed up the deportation of all rejected asylum seekers.
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Germany also intends to work more closely with the two countries to curtail overall migration from Africa to Europe. There are hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and African countries in Egypt, and Germany worries that many will try to reach Europe eventually.
In Egypt, Germany wants to help improve the living conditions of these migrants by pushing vocational training and job creation in the migrants’ neighborhoods, a German government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
The German government will also talk about both Egypt and Tunisia taking back asylum-seekers who have been rejected in Germany.
Some 2,700 Egyptians applied for asylum in Germany in the last two years, while about 1,700 Tunisians came to Germany as asylum seekers over the same time period.
More than 1,300 Egyptians had their asylum plea rejected, but so far only 72 have left the country. Of the Tunisians, almost none receive refugee status in Germany, but it’s been difficult for Germany to deport them back to their home country.
Frank Jordans contributed reporting.