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Photograph: EPA/REDUAN

Germany's plan to classify three North African states as "safe countries of origin," making it easier to return failed asylum seekers, faced a hurdle Tuesday as two representatives in the upper house of parliament said they would abstain or vote against it.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government - which is trying make it easier to return migrants from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco and deter new arrivals - has to secure approval for the bill from the 16 federal states which form the Bundesrat, or upper house.

Officials in Hamburg said Tuesday that the city state would abstain from the vote, while Reiner Haseloff, the prime minister of Saxony Anhalt, said his state would vote against the bill.

Both state governments include the Greens party, which is in opposition nationally. It has criticized the plan, citing the rights records of all three countries, but Merkel's government argues that those facing persecution there will still be eligible for sanctuary in Germany.

Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, told public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday that if the issue cannot be resolved, then the dispute may be taken to a committee that mediates when there is an impasse between the two houses of parliament.

The Bundestag, or lower house, has already approved the plan.

The Bundesrat vote is scheduled for Friday.

Asylum seekers from the three North African countries in question are comparatively low, with only 5,272 bids registered in the first quarter of 2016.

Some 1.1 million migrants arrived in Germany during the course of 2015 and another 600,000 are expected this year.

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