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Migrants stand in line for support services at government offices in Berlin (file photo).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on migration officials and other relevant authorities to speed up the deportation of failed asylum-seekers to their homelands.

Experience shows that the authorities could decide much more quickly whether asylum seekers can stay in Germany and whether their countries of origin were secure enough to return to, Merkel said on January 9.

Speaking in a conference of civil servants, Merkel also pledged to make a "national effort" to ensure that failed asylum-seekers return home. She pointed out that such efforts "will only succeed if we negotiate with respect with the countries to which they have to be returned."

Deportations and voluntary returns of people whose asylum requests are rejected have gained a new urgency following the December 19 deadly terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market.

Authorities say the suspected attacker was a rejected Tunisian asylum-seeker, whom Germany hadn't managed to deport because Tunisia initially refused to recognize him as its citizen.

On January 8, Germany threatened to end development aid to countries that refuse to take back rejected asylum seekers.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP
Asma Jahangir, the UN's special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran (file photo).

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran has expressed concerns about the critical health situation of several prisoners of conscience in the country who are on prolonged hunger strikes.

In her January 9 statement, Asma Jahangir said that at least eight prisoners of conscience have been on life-threatening hunger strikes in Iran in recent weeks to contest the legality of their detention.

One of the prisoners, human rights defender Arash Sadeghi, ended a hunger strike in early January that had started on 24 October 2016.

He did so after his wife, human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, was released from prison on bail.

Jahangir urged the Iranian government to "immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained, and prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and for peacefully promoting human rights observance" in Iran.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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