As unbelievable as it might sound, as it struggled to reduce the destabilizing influx of refugees and migrants flooding into Germany, the coalition government led by Angela Merkel launched a campaign last year offering rejected asylum seekers financial aid if they and their families opt to return to their home countries. The money, as we reported at the time, would go toward paying their rent for their first year back, with some left over for general expenses.
But what's perhaps maybe more unbelievable, the numbers of asylum seekers applying for the program have fallen precipitously over the past year. In 2017, 29,000 people opted for the "voluntary repatriation" program - which bears the catchy title "Your Country, Your Future Now!" But that number has fallen dramatically to just 14,000 through the end of October, according to RT. To qualify, applicants must revoke their initial asylum applications and drop any appeals or further proceedings in Germany's backlogged asylum courts.
So, in a bid to entice more migrants into taking advantage of the program, Germany's Interior Ministry has launched an advertising campaign, hoping to boost the numbers of voluntary repatriations. However, the ads, which have been placed on the billboards in major German cities over the past few weeks, have become controversial, as those who haven't already rejected Merkel's "Open Doors" policy have taken to defacing the advertisements, decrying them as "anti-refugee".
In addition to the thousands of euros that qualifying migrants would receive should they choose to take part in the program, the ads also promised those who took advantage of the program an additional monetary gift: In addition to paying their rent, Germany will also pay for their family's return trip to their country of origin.
Rival lawmakers blasted the plan as a"cynical" attempt to mask the ministry's failures.
"The latest campaign of the interior ministry looks like a sort of a winter sales and that is cynical," Konstantin von Notz, the deputy head of the Greens faction in the Bundestag, told Berliner Morgenpost daily. "It is apparently aimed at concealing [the ministry’s] own failures and improving the figures related to people, who voluntarily left the country, before the end of the year."
Ordinary German also didn't appreciate the new push, but for a different reason: They saw it as "anti immigrant" and as sending the message to asylum seekers that "Germany is not your land and your future is not here."
As a result, graffiti has appeared on many of the signs.
"Dein Land. Deine Zukunft. JETZT!"— Tim Santen (@Santon14) November 21, 2018
Übersetzt: "Hier ist nicht dein Land. Wird es nie werden. Verpiss Dich."
Horst hat es doch sonst so mit Klartext?! Peinlich, Deutschland. pic.twitter.com/TqrALETihx
Germany initially offered €1,200 ($1,360) to refugees who wouldn't fight deportation. But under the new initiative, that sum has been increased to €3,000 ($3,400). That's more than double the original payout.
Die Botschaft: DEIN LAND ist nicht Deutschland. DEINE ZUKUNFT ist nicht hier. Am besten du gehst. JETZT! pic.twitter.com/AZ3Uh9O7bj— Ezgi Güler (@esgimo) November 17, 2018
It's surprising that more migrants aren't seeking to take advantage of the program, because one would imagine that, by offering such a hefty financial incentive, some migrants might calculate that it would be worth it to travel to Germany solely with the intention of dropping their asylum proceedings and taking the money.