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Merkel presses Tunisian PM on asylum solution

Xinhua, February 15, 2017 Adjust font size:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday pressed Tunisia's visiting Prime Minister Youssef Chahed to cooperate more effectively on deporting rejected asylum seekers.

The issue turned into a hot topic in Germany after delayed deportee Anis Amri killed 12 people and wounded some 50 others in a terror attack on Berlin's Christmas market on Dec. 19, 2016.

Merkel's government wants to voluntarily deport around 1,500 illegal Tunisian migrants. She also wants Tunisia to speed up repatriation procedures and set up refugee camps and in the North African country to curb the influx of migrants.

"This is where we must work faster," Merkel said.

She announced her plans to support voluntary returnees to Tunisia, offering educational opportunities and financial support for business start-ups. But she also emphasized that: "If you do not accept this voluntary return, we must say we must also do it involuntarily."

However, Chahed said the terrorist Amri came to Europe in 2011 and waited some five years to commit the attack, so how he got radicalized was the question.

In an interview with local newspaper Bild, Chahed rejected Merkel's proposal on building shelter camps in Tunisia, adding Merkel should "calmly discuss the feasibility."

On Sunday, hundreds of people surrounded the Tunisian parliament to protest against the possible return of the failed asylum seekers, fearing extremists might be among them. Endit