migrants germany refugees.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ARMIN WEIGEL

Certain refugees would not automatically be allowed to have their family members join them in Germany for the next two years under a deal reached by German government leaders, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Thursday.

The restriction will apply to refugees who are not automatically entitled to asylum seeker status under international agreement but who, nonetheless, are believed to be potential victims of execution or torture should they return home.

Those who receive asylum seeker status would continue to have the right to seek to bring their families to join them.

Additionally, the deal would require Germany to work out a plan for bringing in more refugees from camps based in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. These refugees would retain the right to family reunion.

Another part of the deal would see Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia declared "countries of safe origin," meaning asylum seekers from those countries could be returned home under an expedited procedure, Gabriel said.

Germany has buckled under the strain of nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers who reached the country in 2015. Calls for limiting the number of people reaching Germany have grown since New Year's Eve, when multiple women were attacked by groups of men, many of them migrants, during festivities in the western city of Cologne.

The backlash against migration has put strains on the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has argued for months that Germany is capable of absorbing the crush of asylum seekers. Her stance has increasingly come under attack, especially from members of her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU).

Merkel vowed late Thursday to quickly pass legislation enacting the agreed changes for rapid implementation by her government.

A further part of the deal would see refugees who complete training programmes in Germany earn the right to work for two years. Asylum seekers would be expected to pay 10 euros (10.96 dollars) a month to participate in integration courses.

The deal was hammered out between representatives of the CDU, the CDU's sister party the Christian Social Union, and Gabriel's Social Democrats. It must still be presented to the cabinet and the legislature.

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