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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Questions & Answers: Irregular Migration Stress Test: Limiting the Right to Asylum?

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The federal and state governments are once again arguing about the costs of housing asylum seekers. The EU is still negotiating asylum reform. Britain, meanwhile, creates facts. What’s next?

Britain wants to quickly fly visa-free migrants who come into the country via the English Channel to Rwanda. In Germany and the EU, too, solutions are being sought feverishly to limit the number of newly arriving refugees. Because many reception facilities are overburdened, municipalities feel left alone, the states are demanding more money from the federal government. Is the British model also suitable for the EU?

The tension in Brussels is great. Council President Charles Michel only called a special EU summit on migration in February. The reason for this is almost a million asylum applications last year, more than since 2016. In addition, there were almost four million people from Ukraine who do not have to apply for asylum in the EU, but who are to be housed and cared for.

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A problem for countries like Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands is what is known as secondary migration – i.e. the unauthorized onward movement of asylum seekers from one EU country to the next.

Why do asylum seekers from other EU countries come to Germany?

In principle, the European Dublin rules stipulate that everyone must apply for asylum in the EU state in which they are first registered. Some asylum seekers therefore avoid registration, for example in Italy or Greece.

There are two main reasons for this: either, someone wants to go to Germany because of relatives or friends. Or he or she hopes for better chances of a well-paid job or better care from the state. In Greece, for example, the conditions are difficult even for recognized refugees.

Why has the number of people seeking protection recently increased again?

Among other things, this is certainly due to a catch-up effect: Due to the Corona travel restrictions, many refugees have not been able to reach their intended destination country in recent years, or only with a delay. But factors such as the economic crisis in Turkey, aggravated by the earthquake, where many refugees from Syria and Afghanistan live, also play a role.

In February, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) received 26,149 asylum applications. Around 24,000 of these affected people who applied for asylum in Germany for the first time – for comparison: in February 2022 there were 13,915.

Can anyone who comes to Germany apply for asylum?

In principle, anyone can make a request for protection. However, the EU states and eight other countries in Europe and Africa are considered so-called safe countries of origin, for which it is assumed that a positive asylum decision is very unlikely for applicants from these states. If another EU state is responsible for an applicant’s asylum procedure according to the so-called Dublin rules, the person seeking protection can be sent back there. However, this often does not work, especially in Italy.

What is the dispute between the federal and state governments about?

The federal states and municipalities want more money from the federal government to pay for accommodation, daycare places and integration courses, for example. But it’s not just about money. The municipalities also want asylum seekers with poor prospects to stay in the initial reception facilities of the federal states, ideally until they leave the country or are deported.

The reasoning: This left more capacity on site to take care of people who are staying longer in Germany. The German Association of Cities has also suggested that the federal government should itself provide facilities for accommodating refugees.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is also asked to ensure, above all at EU level, that the number of asylum seekers does not continue to rise. Union politicians in particular also want Faeser to stop admission programs that have already been promised, for example for people from Afghanistan or for boat people from Italy.

What happened to the EU-wide distribution?

Faeser never tires of calling for solidarity from her EU colleagues when taking in people seeking protection. However, the SPD politician has hardly any comrades-in-arms at her side. In any case, nobody in Brussels wants to talk about a binding quota anymore.

But even on a voluntary basis, hardly any states accept asylum seekers from the countries on the external borders, which are under particular pressure. An example of this is a mechanism adopted in June 2022, which was considered a success at the time: According to this, 13 countries want to take in 8,000 asylum seekers from Italy and other external border countries within a year. In fact, there are only a few hundred so far – Germany has taken over the lion’s share of them.

Most countries are pursuing a restrictive course in asylum policy. They demand that fences at the external borders be paid for from the EU budget. Austria calls for the possibility of rejecting migrants at the external borders – international law must allow them to apply for asylum.

Many migrants are currently moving from the external border states such as Italy and Greece to countries such as Germany, Austria or the Netherlands. Faeser therefore recently called on the government in Rome to take back asylum seekers. However, the country has not been following this rule for months. Currently, 9,000 migrants from Germany have to return to Italy.

What is being done at EU level to counteract the high number of refugees?

Actually, the EU states and the European Parliament are currently negotiating a comprehensive reform of asylum and migration policy. However, since progress is slow, short-term measures are also being worked on. This includes, among other things, deporting more rejected asylum seekers. Because the so-called repatriation rate of the EU is notoriously low, most recently it was 21 percent. To this end, pressure should be put on the countries of origin via the visa policy, for example, so that they take back their compatriots.

The EU border protection agency Frontex should also be used more frequently for collective deportations. At the same time, deportation decisions by other EU states should be recognized more frequently by other member states. This would make secondary migration, which is a thorn in the side of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, less attractive.

Would the British model be an option for Germany and the EU?

According to government plans, it will be much more difficult to apply for asylum in Great Britain. Instead, migrants who come into the country via the English Channel are to be flown out to Rwanda as quickly as possible, where their asylum application is to be processed.

It is not to be expected that this will happen in Germany or the entire EU. Faeser continues to hope for progress in asylum reform. EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas recently said with a view to such plans: “This is not our Europe. This is not the European way of life.”

Source: Stern

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