Germany has come up with a novel way to thin the ranks of migrants who have sought asylum but been rejected: paying them to leave.
The country, which has come under fire in some quarters for its acceptance of refugees fleeing war and hardship in various Muslim-majority countries, now wants to give rejected asylum-seekers a one-time payment of $3,570 to go home.
The Interior Ministry says those who qualify can apply by a Feb. 28 deadline and they would get the money once they return home.
Migrants who agree to go back even before their asylum request is rejected have already been offered money under a different program for almost a year. They would now be eligible to apply for both programs.
Migrants on a small wooden boat wait to be rescued by the German non-profit organization Sea Watch. (Sea Watch via AP)
GERMAN PARTIES SEEK COMPROMISE ON MIGRANTS, CLIMATE CHANGE
But the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday that 8,639 migrants participated in the returnee program between February and October, even though there are about 115,000 rejected asylum-seekers in Germany —many of whom can't be deported for humanitarian reasons.
This comes at the same time as a new study showing that Europe's Muslim population will continue to grow over the next several decades even if all immigration to the continent was stopped.
Muslims in Europe comprised 4.9 percent of the population last year and will grow under different scenarios, depending on birthrates and future migration.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.