Working together to address illegal migration and terrorism

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Angela Merkel in North Africa Working together to address illegal migration and terrorism

In future Tunisia will respond to enquiries regarding the identification of individuals within a month. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Béji Caid Essebsi have agreed on this point. Asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected can thus be repatriated more swiftly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel in conversation with Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi

Germany intends to increase its development assistance to Tunisia by 250 million euros

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Returnees are to be given greater support.

The German government intends to cooperate more closely with Tunisia and Egypt to fight international terrorism. That is one outcome of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to North Africa. In Tunis and Cairo, Angela Merkel also discussed development cooperation and measures to address illegal migration.

Chancellor Angela Merkel´s trip

Chancellor Angela Merkel´s trip

Photo: Bundesregierung

German government raises development assistance

In Tunis, Angela Merkel met with President Béji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. It was agreed, reported the Chancellor, that in future Tunisia will respond to enquiries regarding the identification of individuals within 30 days. Germany will help Tunisia put in place a registration system. Replacement travel documents will then be issued within a week, making it possible to speed up the repatriation of asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected.

Angela Merkel announced that Germany would increase development assistance for Tunisia by 250 million euros. This is to further support the positive development of the country, and give young people genuine prospects again. There is also to be further cooperation on job creation and in the field of security policy. Tunisia, said Angela Merkel at a joint press conference with President Essebsi, can be proud of what it has already achieved. Tunisia is "a beacon of hope" for Europe, she said.

Germany is supporting, in particular, projects that encourage Tunisians to return voluntarily to their home country. Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller has opened a migration centre. It is the first "Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration" in North Africa. The advisory centre in Tunis matches up applicants with training places and jobs, and encourages business start-ups. People are to be enabled to find their feet again in their home country. German-Tunisian development projects are thus to be specifically opened up to returnees and expanded on a massive scale. Currently about 1,500 Tunisians whose applications to stay in Germany have been rejected are still in Germany.

Germany is engaging in Tunisia with a large number of support measures. Tunisia is a priority country of the transformation partnership and the training initiative. Since 2016 Germany has been supporting Tunisia’s security forces, in particular by providing training and supplies of materials. There is a special focus on border protection, particularly with respect to the Libyan border.
Germany is a partner of Tunisia in the field of development cooperation. Following what has been termed the jasmine revolution in Tunisia in 2011, Germany’s aid was raised from 37.5 million euros in 2010 to 215 million euros in 2015. The sum has since risen further, and today stands at over 250 million euros.

Expanding economic cooperation

In Cairo, the Chancellor met on Thursday with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Their talks centred on the full spectrum of bilateral relations, especially economic issues.

An in-depth discussion was held with business representatives from both nations, reported the Chancellor. Although Germany is one of Egypt’s main trading partners, it is not yet one of the main investors in the country. The Chancellor reported that it was very encouraging to be able to open the first stage of a project during her stay in Cairo. The power plant project has been implemented in a remarkably short space of time, and will generate power for 45 million people once it is completed.

Solution found for the work of foundations

The Chancellor also raised the matter of the options open to German foundations to work in Egypt. She said the aim is to put the activities of the foundations on a clear legal footing for the future. Angela Merkel reported, "We have managed to agree on the basic principles for an additional agreement to our agreement on cultural activities." The legal situation will thus be regulated in future. This step opens up new opportunities for cooperation as soon as the additional agreement comes into effect.

Fighting international terrorism

The Chancellor also pointed out that the rule of law is extremely important for the development of civil society. She added, "The terrorist threat is a real threat in both Egypt and Germany." Civil society builds resistance to terrorist activities. She also pointed out that the two countries cooperate closely in the fight against international terrorism, and wished Egypt every success in pertinent activities in its neighbourhood. A political solution must be found for Libya, she said.

Egypt is a target country for migrants. UNHCR has registered about 190,000 people seeking protection in Egypt, 120,000 of whom are Syrian. Germany and Europe have a great interest in Egypt’s continuing engagement against criminal human traffickers operating at its land and sea borders. Egypt is also to improve living conditions for refugees in country.

Improving the fate of refugees in Egypt

Egypt is a "stabilising element" in the Middle East, said the Chancellor in her latest video podcast. Now, she stressed that talks would continue on the problem of illegal migrants and thus on cooperation in the field of migration policy. Here the focus is on technical equipment, she said. It is clear that Germany and the EU must help to support Egypt with a view to the impacts of migration. The two sides have a joint duty, she said, to improve the fate of refugees in Egypt.

On Thursday evening the Chancellor met with leading human rights activists and lawyers for an exchange of views. Before this meeting she visited St Mark’s Cathedral and met the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II. The Chancellor also met with the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb.