The current migration crisis in Europe and North America shows two distinct aspects:
- the arrival of refugees and other migrants, and
- the deportation of undesired migrants.
The former enjoys high visibility not only in the media but also as new faces continue to appear among the crowds of daily life.
The deportation is largely invisible. Over night, a foreigner who has been around for some time is missing, an entire family may have disappeared like the Jews in Germany did during Nazi years.
Deportation or “repatriation”, as the Italians prefer to call it, is the ugly side of migration. “Welcome culture” was offered in Germany to the arriving crowds – but no “disappearance culture” exists for those expelled from their dream land.
Even less of a welcome is offered to the returnees upon arrival in their country of origin or any in other place where they may have been dumped against their will. Unless a kind-hearted government or an NGO takes care of the returnee, a deported person is rarely welcomed.
For several reasons, a deportee is usually unwelcome back home because
- someone who left the country is often considered a traitor or an enemy of the government;
- someone who returns reduces the strength of the diaspora on whose remittances the economy depends;
- a returnee is considered someone who failed to establish himself or herself abroad;
- of the suspicion to have been expelled for bad behavior or for having committed a felony and done jail time.
- the returning migrant has not only squandered his or her own savings but in many cases also a credit provided by family and friends to finance the northbound trip.
Understandably, immigration countries are at present mainly focused on the challenges of accepting and accommodating the migrants assumed to be refugees if they apply for asylum. In Germany, some 40 percent of current arrivals are offered asylum, the rest is expected to return voluntarily to their country of origin or to be deported.
The potential deportees, however, stay months and sometimes years in the country before they leave – if they ever do. During this period they are kept in suspended animation, can't work, can't send their children to school and are not eligible for language courses. Their cost of accommodation, food and medical treatment are borne by the country of immigration, as well as the cost of deporting them.
In addition, the country that wants to get rid of them also faces the cost of convincing another country to accept them. Most migrants arrive without papers, many lie about their country of origin, making it extremely difficult to deport them. Consequently, authorities in charge of deportation are usually quite rough in handling people. Picking them up in the middle of the night, rushing them to the airport before they can call a lawyer, forcing them handcuffed into the plane if it is a commercial flight – scenes which neither passengers nor flight personnel like to watch.
The United Kingdom, for instance, hired a fleet of 54 private jets to deport almost 3,000 people from January 2014 to June 2015, according to the interior ministry. "Charter flights are used to return illegal immigrants to destinations which have a limited number of scheduled flights or where scheduled flights have an insufficient capacity to meet demand. In general, they are used to remove those with a history of non-compliance or who pose a risk to the public,” the Home Office told the Mirror.
On arrival back home they are usually penniless, facing grim immigration procedures and possibly persecution.
In other instances they are not expelled by plane but given a one way train ticket to the country they came from. In Hungary, for instance, arriving through the border fence is considered a crime. The convicted felon is given a train ticket to return to Serbia. Since Serbia refuses to accept any returning migrants, the poor person ends up in an overcrowded Hungarian jail to wait for doomsday or for Serbia to change tack.
In the first half of 2015, Italy deported 8,500 illegal immigrants who did not qualify for asylum, who lied on their applications, or whose proposed reason to stay was not justified, according to a report by the interior ministry. Of the 200,000 illegals expected to arrive in Italy in 2015, 18,068 are considered the least wanted of the unwanted; most of them have already been expelled.
Weekly charter flights to Cairo and Tunis take illegal Egyptians and Tunisians back home. Algerians are usually put on return flights upon arrival. Moroccans can also be returned because of a bilateral agreement with the government. Similar arrangements are sought with Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia. Illegal Albanians and other people from the Balkans are forcibly returned by locked train carriage or ferry.
Back in 2012, Europe's human rights court ordered Italy to pay damages to 24 Somali and Eritrean migrants for having deported them to Libya in 2009, saying the government in Rome put the migrants at risk of torture and persecution. In 2015, despite this ruling, 133 Syrians were dropped at the border of Lebanon and Syria, and 221 Afghans were flown to Afghanistan which refuses to accept returning refugees.
The US government is deporting undocumented immigrants back to Central America to face the imminent threat of violence, with several individuals being murdered just days or months after their return, a Guardian investigation has found.aThe Guardian has confirmed three separate cases of Honduran men who have been gunned down shortly after being deported by the US government. Each was murdered in their hometowns, soon after their return – one just a few days after he was expelled from the US. A forthcoming academic study based on local newspaper reports has identified as many as 83 US deportees who have been murdered on their return to , Guatemala and Honduras since January 2014.
Germany is very slow in returning migrants. In 2014, some 200,000 people applied for asylum. Two thirds of them were rejected but only about 10,000 were expelled. The remainder were “tolerated” which means living in suspended animation. In the first half of 2015, only some 8,000 from over 190,000 rejected asylum seekers were returned to where they came from. Of those, 52,000 should leave Germany, the rest is tolerated for medical reasons or because they lack documents and Germany cannot identify their country of origin. As a result of the backlog and the recent and continuing mass immigration, the Bundestag adopted legislation to speed up deportation but chances are that most asylum seekers, except citizen of Balkan countries, will one way or another remain in Germany.
Switzerland is unpopular among potential asylum seekers because it practices a fast track procedure for candidates from the Balkans, deciding within 48 hours if the request is accepted. Since Switzerland has concluded bilateral agreements with Balkan countries that permit repatriation, undesirable applicants can be returned quickly. Immigrants from North Africa, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia are kept in federal centers maximally 140 days before deportation; other applicants with better chances of success are distributed among the Cantons and will receive the verdict within a maximum of 12 months. All asylum seekers are offered legal assistance which helps to speed up procedures.
With a time lag of one to several years – depending on the immigration policy of the country of asylum – the streams of migrants are reversed. For each million of arrivals a few hundred thousand are expected to return to where they came from.
Some will leave voluntarily with a small cheque in their pocket. Others will be forcibly expelled. Still others will successfully dodge deportation and stay in hiding. Some will commit suicide or die before being deported.
Although expelling countries are eager to act smoothly and silently, the scandal of forced deportation will gain in visibility as the scale of the operation grows. For every fish trawler full of migrants arriving at Europe's shores, for every train load of potential wetbacks making across the Rio Grande, one or more plane loads of returnees will leave in the opposite direction.
A costly and basically inhumane operation likely to assume a large scale as asylum policies are tightened and the northbound mass migration from Asia, Africa and Central America continues with no end in sight.
Many if not most migrants hail from countries considered safe. Experience shows that most of these countries are unwilling to take back migrants unless they are compensated for the loss in terms of remittances foregone. Deportation thus becomes doubly expensive: to the cost of transport and a possible silver handshake for the voluntary returnee, the dispatching government is forced add the cost of compensating the receiving government for the remittances lost. If this compensation is satisfactory, the latter government might even accept migrants of unknown nationality: an opportunity for the dispatching government to get rid of some of the toughest cases.
Heinrich von Loesch
According to the Ministry of the Interior, Germany "repatriated" 18,363 persons who were not granted asylum during the first eleven months of 2015. During the same period, 425,000 newly arriving persons were processed for asylum request. Obviously, numbers of arrivals and numbers of departures are out of sync if deportation is supposed to limit immigration to genuine refugees entitled to asylum.
The deputy chief of the German police union, Jörg Radek, estimated the number of people obliged to leave Germany at 190,000. He criticized the Länder governments for lack of action and urged them to show "much more determination in expelling foreigners who were denied asylum."
The Afghan Minister for Refugees Hossein Alemi Balkhi has allegedly encouraged Afghans on social media to leave their country and migrate to Europe. In an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung (1/02/16) he considered 31 of 34 provinces "unsafe". He wants to exclude from repatriation all Afghan refugees except a few "healthy males from safe provinces."