Overview of the main changes since the previous report update

Germany

Author

Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration

The report was previously updated in November 2015.

  • The number of newly arriving asylum seekers dropped by about 69% in 2016. According to estimates by the Federal Ministry of Interior, 280,000 asylum seekers came to Germany in 2016, in comparison to an estimated 890,000 in 2015. In spite of this, the number of asylum applications increased significantly, from 476,649 in 2015 to 745,545 applications in 2016 (a 56% rise). This is due to the fact that the majority of applications were filed by applicants who had already arrived in 2015, at a time when authorities did not manage to register all applications. The backlog of non-registered asylum applications has been cleared in 2016.

  • The overall protection rate was on a very high level in 2016 (62.4% of decisions resulting in refugee status, subsidiary protection or humanitarian/national protection). However, due to a policy change in the first months of 2016, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) granted subsidiary protection instead of refugee protection in a record number of cases. This policy change affected Syrian nationals in particular, but also asylum seekers from Iraq or Eritrea. For instance, whereas 95.8% of Syrians had been granted refugee status in 2015, this rate dropped to 56.4% in 2016. Conversely, the rate of Syrians being granted subsidiary protection rose from 0.1% in 2015 to 41.2% in 2016. The policy change at the BAMF coincided with a legislative change in March 2016, according to which family reunification was suspended for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection until March 2018 (see below). Tens of thousands of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection appealed against the authorities’ decisions in order to gain refugee status (“upgrade-appeals”), with a success rate of more than 75% in 2016.

 

Asylum procedure

  • Arrival centres: The BAMF intensified its efforts to fast-track procedures with the establishment of more than 20 new “arrival centres”. In these centres various processes such as registration, identity checks, the interview and the decision-making are “streamlined”. Asylum seekers are categorised in “clusters” with the aim of conducting the asylum procedure for some groups of asylum seekers – those with an alleged low chance and those with an alleged high chance of being granted protection – within a few days.

  • Accelerated procedure: Accelerated procedures were introduced in March 2016 for certain groups of asylum seekers, most prominently, asylum seekers from safe countries of origin. At the end of 2016 these accelerated procedures were only carried out in two branch offices of the BAMF, so this amendment did not have a major impact in practice.

  • Quality of decisions: The quality of many asylum procedures was strongly criticised in a “memorandum” published by twelve NGOs in November 2016. One important issue of the memorandum was that many decisions in asylum procedures are not taken by the BAMF staff member who has conducted the interview but by a decision-maker in a remote location (called decision-making centres). This point has since been confirmed in an official statement, according to which more than 66% of asylum decisions were taken in “decision-making centres” in 2016.

  • Withdrawal of application: In March 2016 a new sanction was introduced for asylum seekers who do not file their application without delay or on a given date at the branch office of the BAMF to which they have been sent by the authorities. Failure to report at the branch office in time is now regarded as “failure to pursue” the asylum procedure. The asylum procedure thus can be abandoned before it has begun.

  • Inadmissible applications: Criteria for “inadmissibility” of asylum applications, were clarified in August 2016. They now include “Dublin cases” (responsibility of another Member State of the Dublin regulation for the asylum procedure) as well as cases in which another EU member state has granted international protection and cases in which a secondary application does not lead to an initiation of a new asylum procedure.

  • Exclusion: Criteria for exclusion from refugee status were amended in March 2016. An asylum seeker may now be excluded from recognition as a refugee if he or she has been sentenced to a prison term of at least one year (as opposed to three years in the former version of the law) for certain offences such as causing bodily harm, sexual assault or robbery.

 

Reception conditions

  • Access to the labour market: In most parts of Germany asylum seekers with a work permit can start a job without having to undergo the “priority review” i.e. labour market test entailing an examination of whether there is a German national or a foreigner with a better residence status equally suited for the job. The priority review is suspended in 133 of 156 labour agency areas (areas to which a local labour office is assigned) between August 2016 and August 2019.

  • Financial allowance: Following an amendment to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act, it is possible as of August 2016 to reduce benefits for an asylum seeker, if he or she does not cooperate with the authorities to establish his or her identity.

 

Detention of asylum seekers

  • Place of detention: New facilities for “detention pending deportation” were opened in several Federal States in 2016, following court decisions from former years which had declared detention of deportees in regular prisons illegal.

 

Content of international protection

  • Family reunification: Family reunification was suspended for those beneficiaries of subsidiary protection who have been granted this status after 17 March 2016, until March 2018. This change came into effect only eight months after beneficiaries of subsidiary protection had been given the same privileged position as refugees in terms of family reunification conditions.

  • Freedom of movement: Since August 2016, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are generally obliged to take up their place of residence within the Federal State in which their asylum procedures has been conducted. Furthermore, authorities can oblige them to take up place of residence in a specific municipality within the Federal State. The obligation to live in a certain place remains in force for three years, but it can be lifted for certain reasons (e.g. for family-related reasons or for education and employment purposes). 

  • Permanent residence: Opportunities for refugees to be granted a permanent residence permit were restricted in August 2016. Before this date, persons with refugee status were generally entitled to a permanent residence permit three years after recognition of the status, without having to meet further requirements. Under the new law, most refugees will only be able to gain a permanent residence permit after five years, if they are able to provide for the better part of the cost of living (among other requirements). 

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti