2016 has seen a significant rise in the number of migrants opting to leave Germany voluntarily rather than be deported by local authorities. According to the government, in 2016, close to 55,000 migrants who were not eligible for or were likely to be denied asylum in the country, chose to go back to their homelands; 20,000 more than the 2015 numbers.

Based on January-November data from the Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) daily reported (via Deutsche Welle) that most of the migrants who returned home were from the Western Balkans. Albanians formed the largest group - 15,000. The numbers from Serbia, Iraq and Kosovo totalled about 5,000 each.

"That's a considerable increase from last year," Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns told the press, adding that already, the figures had climbed to 54,123 through 27 December. "The increase is welcome. It's always preferable when people leave the country voluntarily instead of being deported."

Additionally, the country has also deported more than 25,000 migrants this year and according to a Finance Ministry spokesman, the government plans to increase funding to €150m in 2017 towards efforts to encourage people to leave Germany.

In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country would open its doors to migrants and refugees. The decision resulted in the influx of more than 1.1m asylum seekers. In recent months, Germany has toughened its stance on immigration over security concerns.

By voluntarily leaving, the migrants avoid being forcibly deported and banned from future entry into the country. They also receive financial support of up to €3000 inclusive of flight tickets.

Germany refugee
An Afghan, whose asylum application has been rejected, kisses the ground after he arrived from Germany in Kabul airport, Afghanistan REUTERS/Omar Sobhani