BERLIN (AP) — German authorities approved government funding for more than 54,000 migrants to return to their homelands this year, authorities said Wednesday — paving the way for a significant increase in voluntary departures.
Germany is keen to increase the number of rejected asylum seekers leaving the country after last year's influx of 890,000 migrants.
Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns said the government has authorized spending 21.5 million euros ($22.5 million) this year to send returnees back to their countries of origin.
About 35,500 people obliged to leave Germany did so voluntarily in 2015, he said, noting that the two figures cannot be compared directly because the number of people who actually departed in 2016 isn't yet clear.
Neymanns stressed that Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere "has always said voluntary returns are always preferable to deportation."
As of the end of November, 23,750 people were forcibly deported from Germany.
Of the more than 50,000 people awarded grants to leave voluntarily in the year's first 11 months, migrants from Albania comprised the single biggest group, numbering 15,749, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees said.
Other nations with significant numbers included 5,754 from Serbia, 5,373 from Iraq, 5,130 from Kosovo, 4,310 from Macedonia and 3,242 from Afghanistan.
Germany saw large numbers of people from Balkan countries, who had slim chances of being granted asylum, arrive in early 2015.