Forms and levels of material reception conditions



Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration

Assistance under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act generally consists of “basic benefits” (i.e. a fixed rate supposed to cover the costs for food, accommodation, heating, clothing, personal hygiene and consumer goods for the household).1 Furthermore, the necessary “benefits in case of illness, pregnancy and birth” have to be provided for.2 In addition, “other benefits” can be granted in individual cases (upon application) if they are necessary to safeguard the means of existence or the state of health.3

The benefits as regulated in the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act until 2012 were considerably lower than social allowances granted to German citizens or to foreigners with a secure residence status. For example, a single adult person was entitled to 224.97 €, but 184.07 € out of this allowance was designated for basic needs and could be provided in kind. The allowance paid out in cash (and sometimes in vouchers) was 40.90 € (20.45 € for children under 15 years).

The Federal Constitutional Court declared the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act as unconstitutional in July 2012, particularly on the grounds that the benefits paid out in cash were incompatible with the fundamental right to a minimum existence. The court considered the benefits to be insufficient because they had not been changed since 1993 and they had not been calculated in a comprehensible manner in the first place.4

Revisions to the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act were passed by both chambers of parliament in November 2014 and the law entered into force on 1 March 2015.5 The main changes were:

  • Adjustment of standard rates to a level of about 90% of “standard” social benefits;
  • Access to standard social benefits is usually granted after 15 months of receiving benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. This means that higher benefits are paid after 15 months and that restrictions which still exist in the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act, in particular the limited access to health care, do not apply after that period
  • The benefits shall primarily be provided in cash. This marked a reversal of the principle of the former Asylum Seeker's Benefits Act, according to which benefits had primarily to be provided as non-cash benefits.

However, with a law entering into force on 24 October 2015, the principle has again been changed, at least for asylum seekers who are housed in collective accommodation centres and especially for those living in the initial reception centres. In these centres, non-cash benefits should be the rule, “as long as this is possible with acceptable administrative burden”.6 For asylum seekers in other (decentralised) collective accommodation centres, non-cash benefits “can” be provided “if this is necessary under the circumstances”.7 The wording of the latter provision implies that authorities on the regional or local level have wide-ranging discretionary powers when deciding how allowances are to be provided. It therefore will be dependent on local conditions and policies whether non-cash benefits will be reintroduced or not.

Benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act were slightly raised at the beginning of 2016 in the course of an annual adjustment. However, they were reduced again, to a slightly lower level, with the introduction of amendments to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act in March 2016. Allowances for asylum seekers from 17 March 2016 onwards are as follows:


Single adult person

Adult partners in common household (each)

Member of household

> 18

Member of household


Member of household


Member of household

< 6

Stay in accommodation centre







Stay outside accommodation centre







According to the law, asylum seekers who are accommodated in reception or accommodation centres generally have to be provided with the necessary means of food, heating, clothing and sanitary products in these centres. Therefore the rates for these groups are considerably lower than they are for asylum seekers living in apartments of their own. For those living outside the accommodation centres, the costs for accommodation (rent), heating and household goods have to be provided on top of the allowances as referred to in the table.


  • 1. Section 3 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
  • 2. Section 4 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
  • 3. Section 6 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
  • 4. Federal Constitutional Court, Decision of 18 July 2012 – 1 BvL 10/10, 1 BvL 2/11 -, M19839. Cf. press release of the Federal Constitutional Court.
  • 5. The text of the law and background material (texts of various bills, protocols from the debates and expert opinions) have been compiled by the Berlin refugee council at:
  • 6. Section 3(1) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
  • 7. Section 3(2) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

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