Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday defended Germany's stepped up deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers, saying other European countries were doing the same in response to a large influx of migrants since summer 2015.

Over a million migrants have flocked to Germany in the last two years. Merkel, who initially embraced an open-door refugee policy, has toughened her tone in recent months as she seeks a fourth term in a Sept. 24 election in which the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party is expected to win seats.

In December Germany began carrying out group deportations of Afghans with the government seeking to show it is tackling the high number of migrants by getting rid of those who do not qualify as refugees. One third of those sent back on the first flight were criminals convicted of offences.

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