Where Germany stands on refugees and asylum
The individuals seeking refuge on Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, desire to enter the European Union; however, the majority of them prefer not to remain in Italy. The conservative administration in Rome shows minimal initiative in preventing their passage, allowing most migrants to proceed northward without undergoing registration. In light of a significant rise in refugee figures, France has declared its intention to augment police presence along the French-Italian border. Germany is conducting sporadic inspections at its southern border adjoining Austria, although Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has dismissed the idea of intensifying 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.
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 everyone.
Up until August 2023, Germany has registered approximately 1.1 million refugees from Ukraine, 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 reach Germany are generally 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.
Almost 280,000 foreigners were classified as obliged to leave the country. Of these, about half are rejected asylum-seekers. However, most have “temporary toleration” (Duldung), meaning they have been asked to leave the country but cannot be deported “for material or legal reasons.” Such reasons are threats to life and safety, for example, because war is raging in their home country or because they have health issues that cannot be treated in their country of origin.
There is a group of 95,000 individuals in Germany who are foreigners and their citizenship cannot be identified. As a result, there is no legal destination for their deportation.
By the end of June, there were 54,330 individuals who were officially categorized as “immediately obliged to depart the country,” meaning they could potentially be deported. The federal government had planned to initiate a strong effort to repatriate individuals upon assuming office in late 2021. However, in 2022, the number of deportations was less than 13,000, and in the first half of 2023, it dropped even further 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 involved in carrying out deportations. The Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in the federal coalition government, have also expressed these demands. Bijan Djir-Sarai, the party’s general secretary, emphasized the need to halt illegal migration and regulate immigration to prevent overwhelming schools and the welfare system. He warned that failing to do so would leave hundreds of thousands of migrants without opportunities for education and decent employment.
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”
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 biggest hurdle to limiting migration lies in the asylum seekers’ countries of origin: With a civil war raging in Syria, and the Taliban’s repressive rule in Afghanistan, anyone who makes it from there to Europe cannot be sent back for the foreseeable future.
Conservative politicians argue that numerous migrants choose to come to Germany with the sole intention of relying on state welfare, which is comparatively higher than in several other European nations.
In Germany, individuals are provided assistance regardless of their asylum or residency applications being denied and their obligation 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 a stance on this matter as he campaigns for re-election in October. He declared that rejected asylum-seekers in Bavaria will no longer be given monetary aid, but will still receive food and clothing. Additionally, Söder advocates for a significant decrease in financial support for refugees.
This article was originally written in German.
While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.