BERLIN • Germany wants to limit migration from North Africa by declaring Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia "safe countries", officials from the ruling coalition said, cutting their citizens' chance of being granted asylum to virtually zero.
The initiative follows outrage over sexual attacks on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve blamed predominantly on North African migrants that sharpened a national debate about the open- door refugee policy adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Europe's most populous country and largest economy has borne the brunt of the continent's biggest refugee influx since World War II. Some 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in the country last year, most fleeing war and poverty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Dr Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on Monday agreed that Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - troubled by unrest rather than full-blown conflict - should be designated safe countries. The step is intended to reduce the number of arrivals from these countries and make deportations easier, CDU secretary-general Peter Tauber said after a party meeting.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert has said Berlin wants to discuss with other European Union governments about designating Algeria and Morocco as safe countries.
On Sunday, Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Berlin could cut development aid to countries that are unwilling to take back citizens whose asylum applications were rejected.
Asked about Germany's policy on Algeria and Morocco, Mr Gabriel told ARD television: "There cannot be a situation where you take the development aid but do not accept your own citizens when they can't get asylum here because they have no reason to flee their country."
To help integrate refugees and defuse social tensions that have risen since the Cologne attacks, Mr Gabriel has called for an extra €5 billion (S$7.8 billion) a year in spending on police, education and daycare.
"We can only manage the double task of integration, namely accommodating the new arrivals and also preserving the cohesion of our society, if we have a strong state capable of acting," he said after a meeting on Monday of his Social Democrats, the coalition partner in Dr Merkel's government.
He said Germany needed 9,000 more police officers, 25,000 new teachers and 15,000 daycare workers, while funds for public housing should be doubled.
His proposal is expected to be approved at federal and state levels in the coming months.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wants to avoid the government taking on new debt this year, but he has admitted this may be difficult due to the ballooning refugee costs.
Part of those costs will be covered with the surplus from last year's Budget, which was a bigger-than-expected €12.1 billion.