Freedom of movement

Germany

Author

Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration

Until the end of the year 2014, freedom of movement of asylum seekers was restricted by the so-called “residence obligation” for asylum seekers (legally called “geographical restriction”). Section 56 of the Asylum Act stipulated that asylum seekers' residence permits (Aufenthaltsgestattung) should be limited to the town or district in which their place of accommodation was located. They had to apply for permission from the authorities whenever they wanted to travel to another region. 

According to a new law which was published on 31 December 2014 in the Official Gazette, the “residence obligation” has now been largely removed both for asylum seekers and for people with a “tolerated” stay.1 From 1 January 2015 onwards, this restriction no longer applies after an initial 3-month period. The “geographic restriction” can be re-imposed, however, if the person concerned has been convicted of a criminal offence or if deportation is imminent.2 Since October 2015, the geographic restriction has further been reinstated for persons who are obliged to stay in an initial reception centre.3 This change particularly affects asylum seekers from safe countries of origin, who are obliged in principle to stay in initial reception centres for the whole duration of their procedures.   

As a rule, asylum seekers have no right to choose the place of residence. Instead, the place of residence for asylum seekers is usually determined by the general distribution systems according to which places for asylum seekers are at first allocated to the Federal States for the initial reception period and to the municipalities within the Federal States afterwards. It is possible to apply to the authorities to be allocated to a particular town or district, but such applications are only successful in highly exceptional cases (e.g. if a rare medical condition requires that an asylum seeker has to stay close to a particular hospital).

 

The German distribution key (Königsteiner Schlüssel)

Distribution of asylum seekers is determined by the following aspects:

  • Capacities of initial reception centres;
  • Competence of the branch offices of the BAMF for asylum seekers’ countries of origin (e.g. Ethiopian asylum seekers are likely to be sent to branch offices of the BAMF in Hesse or Bavaria which are responsible for Ethiopia as a country of origin);
  • A quota system called “Königsteiner Schlüssel”, according to which reception capacities are determined for Germany’s 16 Federal States. The Königstein key takes into account the tax revenue (accounting for 2/3 of the quota) and the number of inhabitants (1/3) of each Federal State.

The quota for reception of asylum seekers in 2015 (“Königstein Key”) in comparison to number of (first) asylum applications 2015 (January-October) was as follows:4


















Federal State

Quota

Applications in 2015

Actual share in 2015

Baden-Württemberg

12.97%

42,390

12.80%

Bavaria

15.33%

51,147

15.44%

Berlin

5.05%

20,478

6.18%

Brandenburg

3.08%

13,955

4.21%

Bremen

0.94%

3,902

1.18%

Hamburg

2.52%

9,640

2.91%

Hesse

7.32%

21,794

6.58%

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

2.04%

12,654

3.82%

Lower Saxony

9.36%

26,632

8.04%

North Rhine-Westphalia

21.24%

52,261

15.78%

Rheinland-Pfalz

4.83%

14,699

4.44%

Saarland

1.22%

6,864

2.07%

Saxony

5.10%

21,161

6.39%

Sachsen-Anhalt

2.86%

11,589

3.50%

Schleswig-Holstein

3.39%

11,837

3.57%

Thuringia

2.75%

10,217

3.08%

As shown in the last column, 5 out of 16 Federal States received less asylum applicants than their respective share under the Königstein Key in the period January-October 2015. However, as noted above, the distribution of applications takes into account additional criteria.

  • 1. A “toleration” (Duldung) is granted to foreigners who are not entitled to a residence permit and are obliged to leave the country, but whose deportation cannot be carried out for technical reasons (e.g. lack of necessary documents) or on humanitarian grounds.
  • 2. Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Rechtsstellung von asylsuchenden und geduldeten Ausländern (Law on improvement of the legal status of asylum seeking and tolerated foreigners), Bundesgesetzblatt (Offical Gazette) I, no. 64, 2439, 31 December 2014.
  • 3. Section 59a I Asylum Act, as amended in October 2015.
  • 4. BAMF: Verteilung der Asylbewerber (Distribution of asylum seekers), 1 January 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/1j1HMnO; BAMF, Asylgeschäftsstatistik, October 2015.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention across 20 countries.