Where Germany stands on refugees and asylum

The refugees who arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean have a desire to enter the European Union, but the majority of them prefer not to remain in Italy. The current right-wing 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 numbers, France has declared its intention to enhance police presence along the French-Italian border. Germany is conducting random inspections at its southern border with Austria, although Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has dismissed the idea of imposing 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 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, stating that they are unable to adequately accommodate and integrate all individuals seeking asylum.

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 these 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.

Fact check: Myths human traffickers tell refugees and migrants

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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 are 95,000 individuals in Germany who are of foreign origin and their nationality cannot be identified, thus making it impossible to legally deport them to any specific country.

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

Germany’s long border

Politicians are now advocating for a change in migration policy and better control over immigration due to the challenges involved in carrying out deportations. This call for action has even come from the Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in the federal coalition government. The party’s general secretary, Bijan Djir-Sarai, emphasized the need to put an end to illegal migration and regulate immigration in order to prevent overwhelming our schools and welfare system. Failing to do so could result in a bleak future for hundreds of thousands of migrants, with limited 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”

Afghan refugees in Albania on a never-ending journey

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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 a significant number of migrants choose to settle in Germany with the intention of relying on government assistance, as it offers more generous benefits compared to several other European nations.

In Germany, individuals are provided with assistance, regardless of the rejection of their asylum or residence applications and the requirement 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 part of his re-election campaign in October. He declared that rejected asylum-seekers in Bavaria will no longer be given monetary aid, but will only receive food and clothing. Söder also advocates for a significant decrease in financial support for refugees.

This article was originally written in German.

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