German chancellor Angela Merkel says around 3,000 migrants are leaving Germany to return home to Iraq every month and the number is on the rise.
The German leader says Iraqis are returning to cities recaptured by government forces from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or IS.
It comes as the European Union remains divided over the humanitarian crisis, with Balkan countries shutting their borders to people and closing a major route from Greece to Germany.
As tens of thousands of migrants and refugees wait for entry into Europe, German chancellor Angela Merkel says a growing number are making the reverse journey.
Speaking at an election campaign event, she has told the crowd thousands of Iraqis are leaving Germany every month.
(Translated)”At the moment, 3,000 are returning to Iraq every month, for example, and it’s an upward trend, when their cities are liberated from IS, because they say, ‘This is where we can live with our families in peace.’ Some go back to their families who are not yet here and who might not be able to come for a long time. That means, it is not the case that all refugees will stay here. We must also prepare them for a life back in their home countries.”
Many migrants and refugees are living in shelters and are frustrated with a slow asylum process.
Germany is struggling to work through a backlog of asylum applications after 1.1 million people arrived last year.
Ms Merkel, who will soon face elections, has repeatedly said there would be a slowdown in the number of people coming to Germany.
Her speech comes as Slovenia, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have shut their borders to asylum seekers.
The so-called Balkan route from Greece up to Germany and Scandinavia is now closed, leaving people like Afghan man Ahmad Reza stranded on the borders.
“Our lives were in danger. The family, all members, we were threatened with death by the Taliban. We came to find a secure, stable and peaceful security, a peaceful country. We would like to cross the Macedonian border to go to the German country.”
Ms Merkel has criticised the Balkan states for closing their borders.
She says, while the measure will reduce the number of people arriving in Germany, it puts too much pressure on Greece.
The European Union is still looking to finalise a deal with Turkey that seeks to ease that pressure.
On Monday, Turkey agreed in principle to take back all people reaching Europe after passing through Turkey — in exchange for additional aid to pay for their care.
United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has warned the deal with Turkey must comply with human rights obligations.
“I urge the EU to adopt a much more rights-compliant and humane set of measures on migration at next week’s summit. International guarantees protecting human rights may not be sidestepped, or diluted. Any returns of people must be in conformity with international human rights standards. Arbitrary and prolonged detention must be avoided.”