German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet recognized the Eastern European countries of Georgia and Moldova as “safe countries of origin” on Wednesday in an effort to reduce irregular migration. Refugee rights group PRO ASYL criticized the new recognition for effectively granting the German government quicker means to reject asylum applications from the two countries—which translates to quicker deportations. The move comes a week after Scholz’s government approved a draft law aimed at modernizing Germany’s nationality law.In a press release, the Federal Ministry of the Interior explained that Georgia and Moldova were designated as safe countries of origin because the people there generally do not suffer from a fear of state persecution. According to EU law, a “safe country of origin” refers to a country where the political circumstances and democratic systems indicate there is generally and consistently no persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, punishment or indiscriminate violence. The new designation in Germany is aimed at speeding up asylum procedures.Germany, like other countries in the EU, has seen a drastic spike in the number of people seeking asylum in recent years.Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser emphasized this point Wednesday, stating that the new designations are a step towards limiting irregular migration. She further said that more than one out of every ten asylum applications Germany receives are from Georgian or Moldovian asylum seekers. This year, alone, Georgian nationals filed 6,612 asylum applications in Germany, with another 1,910 applications coming from Moldovian nationals.PRO ASYL, an independent human rights and refugee protection group, asserted Wednesday that Georgia and Moldova had zones of Russian occupation, which means there are regions in those two countries where Georgians and Moldovians are not safe from persecution. In their view, the new designation fails to take into consideration the growing pressure on the two states to comport with Russian control, especially amidst the war in Ukraine.PRO ASYL also highlighted that communities within Georgia and Moldova—such as LGBTQ+ and Rom*nja people—face severe discrimination and marginalization.Separate from Wednesday’s designations, Scholz’s government approved on August 23 a draft law to “modernize” Germany’s citizenship laws. The new law shortened residency requirements and revamped birthrights for German citizenship. The law is expected to grant citizenship to millions of people currently living in Germany.

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