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54,000 migrants receive grant to return home from Germany

German authorities say more than 54,000 migrants, including failed asylum-seekers, have received approval for government funding to return to their homeland this year, paving the way for a significant increase in voluntary departures.

Germany is keen to increase the number of rejected would-be refugees leaving the country after last year's influx of 890,000 migrants.

Interior ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns said that the total funding approved for returnees this year was 21.5 million euro (£18.3 million).

He said about 35,500 people obliged to leave Germany did so voluntarily in 2015, but noted that the two figures cannot immediately be compared because the number of people who actually departed in 2016 is not yet clear.

Mr Neymanns stressed that interior minister Thomas de Maiziere "has always said voluntary returns are always preferable to deportation".

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