Where Germany stands on refugees and asylum

The refugees who arrive on Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, desire to enter the European Union, but the majority of them do not wish to remain in Italy. The conservative government in Rome shows minimal effort in preventing their passage, allowing most migrants to proceed northward without any formal registration. In light of the significant rise in refugee influx, France has declared its intention to augment police presence along the border it shares with Italy. Germany, on the other hand, conducts sporadic inspections at its southern border adjoining Austria; however, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has dismissed the idea of implementing stricter border controls.

Under current EU asylum law, application procedures must be filed in the state where the asylum-seeker first sets foot on EU soil. Those who move on to another member state without permission can be returned to the state where they first entered the bloc. This year, Italy has refused to comply with this regulation, and in return Germany now refuses to take in refugees under the voluntary admissions agreed within the EU.

Italy has officially declared a state of emergency regarding migrants on the island of Lampedusa.

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Germany receives one-third of all asylum applications filed in the EU, Norway, and Switzerland, as reported by the European Asylum Agency. Local councils have expressed concerns about their inability to adequately accommodate and integrate all applicants.

Up until August 2023, Germany has registered approximately 1.1 million refugees from the Ukrainian war, as reported by the Federal Interior Ministry. Furthermore, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has received over 200,000 asylum applications from various countries this year, marking a 77% increase compared to the same period last year. It is worth noting that around 70% of the applicants are male.

Most individuals who successfully reach Germany are typically granted permission to remain.

Only a small proportion of people are actually granted asylum on the grounds of political persecution, but there are other forms of protection that permit them the right to stay. At the end of June 2023, around 44,500 recognized asylum-seekers were living in Germany, most of them from Turkey, Syria and Iran. At the same time, there were around 755,000 people with refugee status under the Geneva Convention, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Approximately 280,000 individuals from other countries have been identified as required to depart from the nation. Among them, nearly half are individuals whose asylum applications were denied. Nevertheless, the majority possess a status known as “temporary toleration” (Duldung), indicating that they have been instructed to leave the country but cannot be physically expelled due to practical or legal considerations. These considerations may include life-threatening circumstances, such as ongoing conflicts in their home country, or medical conditions that cannot be adequately addressed in their country of origin.

There are 95,000 foreigners in Germany whose citizenship cannot be determined, so there is nowhere they can legally be deported to.

By the conclusion of June, a total of 54,330 individuals were officially recorded as “immediately required to depart the nation,” implying their potential deportation. The federal administration had initially aimed to initiate a forceful campaign for repatriation upon assuming office towards the end of 2021. However, in 2022, the number of individuals deported amounted to less than 13,000, and during the initial six months of 2023, the count dropped significantly to a mere 7,861.

Germany’s long border

Politicians are now advocating for a change in migration policy and more effective measures to restrict immigration due to the challenges faced in carrying out deportations. This call for action has also been made by the Free Democrats (FDP), a neoliberal party that is the smallest member of the federal coalition government. “We need to put an end to illegal migration and regulate immigration,” stated Bijan Djir-Sarai, the party’s general secretary, in an interview with the tabloid BILD. “If not, our schools and welfare system will be overwhelmed, leaving hundreds of thousands of migrants without access to education and decent employment opportunities.”

But how could the number of entries be curtailed? Germany borders on nine EU states, and the length of the borders totals just under 3,900 kilometers (2,400 miles). However, the borders are “of course” controlled, “and very strongly and in all directions,” Interior Minister Faeser told the national Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper recently.

“I cannot reword”

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More reasons for flight and asylum

For years, little progress has been made on the issue of equal distribution of refugees within the EU. A breakthrough was celebrated in June 2023 when EU interior ministers agreed to reform the asylum system and introduce fast-track procedures at the EU’s external borders for migrants with little prospect of being allowed to stay. But implementation is likely to take years.

The main obstacle to restricting migration is found in the nations where asylum seekers come from. Due to the ongoing civil war in Syria and the oppressive regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan, individuals who manage to reach Europe cannot be returned to their home countries in the near future.

Conservative politicians argue that numerous migrants choose to settle in Germany with the sole intention of relying on state welfare, which is comparatively more generous than in several other European nations.

In Germany, individuals are provided assistance regardless of their asylum or residence applications being denied and being required to leave the country. However, the state of Bavaria aims to alter this policy. Markus Söder, the State Premier from the center-right Christian Social Union (CSU), has taken up this matter as he seeks re-election in October. He declared that rejected asylum-seekers in Bavaria would no longer be given monetary aid, but only basic necessities like food and clothing. Additionally, Söder advocates for a significant decrease in financial support for refugees.

This article was originally written in German.

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