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Berlin Attack Raises Questions About German Migration Policy


Well, now we're going to examine some of the questions raised by the Berlin suspect's migration history, specifically why Anis Amri remained free even after German authorities declared him a threat and ordered his deportation. That's a question that I put to Demetrios Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute.

DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOU: What happens in Europe very often - it's not just Germany - people have final orders to leave, or they are on a list to be removed. But nobody really wants to do this hardest of things, which is literally picking people up and send them back home - number one. And number two, their homes very often will challenge whether indeed that person belongs to them.

SIEGEL: Yeah, in this case, we learn Mr. Amri evidently lacked a proper Tunisian passport, and therefore he wouldn't be received by Tunisia had he been deported. But it does seem odd that in the absence of a formal document to address his deportation, he is allowed to roam free. Why not detain him during that time?

PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, again, there is extreme reluctance on the part of European governments to actually appear to be heavy handed in any of these things. And there are regulations that have been agreed to at the level of the European Union that severely limit the ability of member states of the European Union to actually detain people on this. They're pretty much extreme cases.

And you said something, Robert, you know, that is very common, you know? The fellow lacks a passport. The fact is that for decades now, we know that one of the first things that people who come into a country to seek asylum or do anything else - one of the first things that they do is they get rid of their documents.

It doesn't mean that everybody who doesn't have any documents is not a good case for refugee status. It simply means that people know how to play the game, and they anticipate that at some point in the future, it would be better for them if they do not have those documents than if they did.

SIEGEL: The Tunisian refusal to take back one of their nationals for whatever reason we don't know - how common is that, that countries will say, well, you've - you say he should be sent back here or she should be sent back here, but we don't acknowledge that person?

PAPADEMETRIOU: Oh, very commonplace. Tunisia could be Mali or Niger or several other countries in Africa or, for that matter, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In other words, there's a cat-and-mouse element to all of this. The EU or individual member states pretend that somehow if they send somebody back, these countries will accept them.

And these countries take the money of Europe or of individual member states, and they say, yes, yes, yes, we will. But when you send them half a planeload or just an individual, they say, sorry, he's not ours or she's not ours; can you prove that this person is a Tunisian?

SIEGEL: You say these are issues that are not unique to Germany, but is there a German dimension to this, that Germany simply does not want to be hard on asylum seekers even if their case has been denied?

PAPADEMETRIOU: Well, it's certainly a German case that has to be made that has to do with Germany's past, the massive deportations prior to, during and after the Second World War. But I will tell you; we could be talking about this very same issue if we were talking about someone from the Netherlands or Sweden or most other countries that have received significant numbers of people who have their adjudications denied and they're just hanging around.

SIEGEL: That's Demetrios Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute speaking to us from New York. Dr. Papademetriou, thanks for talking with us once again.

PAPADEMETRIOU: It is my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.