The German cabinet has agreed to label three North African countries and Georgia as "safe countries of origin" to speed up the asylum process and facilitate the return of rejected asylum seekers there.
The cabinet agreed a draft law on Wednesday listing Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the former Soviet republic of Georgia as safe. The draft must now be voted on by the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.
A previous attempt to list only the three North African countries failed in the upper chamber of the German parliament in the last legislative period.
The opposition Greens and the far-left Die Linke have already rejected the plan, saying the countries are not safe for certain groups.
The aslyum seeker advocacy group Pro Asyl said the new draft law will include a provision to allow those who have started a job, professional training or an apprenticeship by a cut-off date of Wednesday to remain in Germany.
Normally asylum seekers or those given leave to remain from "safe countries of origin" are not permitted to work in Germany.
Pro Asyl rejects the government's draft law, saying that in the case of a "fast-track procedure with a virtual reversal of the burden of proof" the situation of the individual asylum-seeker is not adequately recognized.
Robert Habeck, leader of the Greens, said on Wednesday that the three North African countries, part of the Maghreb region, were not safe for many people.
"It is still the case that journalists, minorities and homosexuals are not safe from persecution and arrest in the Maghreb states," Habeck told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland group of publications.
"There are reports of torture and unfair court proceedings. Therefore I cannot see how these states are safe," he said.
Habeck said the designation of countries as "safe countries of origin" does not solve any problems the move is aimed at.
"If it's about sending people from the Maghreb back more quickly, you need to have a functioning repatriation agreement," Habeck said. "If it's about dealing with crime in Germany, then you need a well-equipped police force."
In addition to all the countries in the European Union, other "safe countries of origin" according to the German authorities are: Ghana, Senegal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.
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