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Update on Germany’s Asylum Policy February 2016

By 15th February 2016November 16th, 2017No Comments

  In the past year, over one million migrants arrived in Germany seeking international protection. In order to address the impact of this flow of people on the institutional capacity of its reception facilities, the German government is proposing new asylum laws, which would restrict the rights of asylum-seekers.    According to Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, the new proposals presented to Cabinet on 2 February 2016 represent a significant attempt to control and reduce the influx of asylum seekers to Germany. They are intended to implement a number of decisions taken by the Coalition Government in Germany between 5 November 2015 and 28 January 2016. The first set of measures, Asylum Package I entered into force last year on 23 October 2015, and the second set, Asylum Package II, was approved by the German cabinet in early February 2016 and will be debated in the German parliament at the end of February 2016.   Asylum Package 2   The second Asylum Package sets out five measures, which will help to streamline the asylum process and facilitate the return of persons, who do not qualify for international protection.    •In order to prevent overloading of current reception and integration systems, the right to family reunification for those under subsidiary protection1  will be suspended for two years from the entry into force of the law. •Cash payments to beneficiaries, which are high in Germany compared to other European countries, will also be lowered. •An accelerated asylum procedure will be put in place for applicants who have little chance of attaining international protection. This procedure will be carried out in special reception centres and completed within a week. If the outcome is indeed negative, repatriation can take place directly from these institutions after a one-week appeal period.  •Obstacles to return will also be reduced by the new law.  In particular, opposition to returns on health grounds is to be decreased. This will be done by medical examination as well as clarification that medical care in the country of origin is sufficient, even if it does not meet the standard of medical care in Germany.  •The Federal Republic will assist also in cooperating with countries of origin and return to ensure sufficient travel documents for persons being returned.    Fee for Integration Measures also Approved.   The proposal by German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, that refugees would contribute 10 Euros to integration courses from the stipend they receive from the German government was also approved by the Cabinet.   New Safe Countries of Origin   Another bill classifies Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as safe countries of origin. While the number of asylum seekers from these three countries, who get protection status in Germany, is low, this law is considered one of the most urgent measures required to reduce immigration from these countries by people seeking international protection. The classification of a State as a safe country of origin is a clear signal to the people already in Germany with no prospect of international protection status that they must return to their home countries.   All three main political parties in Germany, the SPD, CDU and CSU, are eager to show the German public that, despite previously deep divisions on this topic, (including CSU leader Horst Seehofer’s threat to take Angela Merkel’s government to court, if his demand to stem the flow of asylum seekers was not met), the Coalition Government is in control of the refugee crisis. The consensus is important, as German politicians face three regional/state elections in March 2016 in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt in the East and a general election next year.

[1] Subsidiary Protection is a complementary form of protection, which may apply to those who would be at risk of serious harm if returned to their home country, but who do not fit the strict definition of a refugee. It is provided by European Directive 2004/83, the “qualification directive”.