Germany's immigration controversy rumbles on as 55,000 migrants chose to leave

Expert: Identity politics will hurt Merkel's re-election chances

Roughly 55,000 migrants to Germany who were refused asylum or deemed ineligible chose to leave the country between January and November of this year, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, citing government data from the German Office for Migration and Refugees, this was approximately 20,000 more than the total number who voluntarily left in 2015.

Those who left mostly originated from Balkan nations such as Albania, Kosovo and Serbia – as well as Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

On top of this figure, Germany also deported an estimated 25,000 migrants from the country in the same time period.

From January to September of 2016, 210,000 people came to Germany seeking asylum, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at a news conference at the end of September, as reported by Reuters.

A man holds a German flag as migrants and refugees protest for the opening of borders near the Greek village of Idomeni, where thousands are stranded on March 7, 2016.
Louisa Gouliamaki | AFP | Getty Images

Migration in Germany continues to be a contentious issue. Seven migrants originating from Libya and Syria have been charged with attempted murder for setting a homeless man on fire at a Berlin underground station on Christmas Eve, the city's Public Prosecutor's Office confirmed via e-mail to CNBC Wednesday. The homeless man was not harmed, they added.

The news is the latest to contribute to hardening public opinion towards migrants in Germany, particularly following news that Anis Amri, the man suspected of being responsible for a lorry attack on a Berlin Christmas market earlier in December and later shot dead by police in Milan, was a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia. Reuters reported Wednesday that German authorities have detained another Tunisian man who may be been involved.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before Amri's identification and subsequent death that it would be "particularly sickening" if he was a refugee.

Merkel will contest her fourth term as German chancellor in 2017. A key battleground for the upcoming election is migration, and Merkel's implementation of a controversial open door policy for those trying to enter the country.

In 2015, Germany admitted 890,000 migrants.

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