The updated Country Report on Germany provides a detailed overview of developments in the asylum procedure, reception conditions and detention, as well as content of international protection. The political agreement of 12 March 2018 between German federal coalition partners CDU, CSU and SPD announced plans for a restructuring of the asylum procedure in March 2018. According to the coalition agreement, all asylum seekers should spend the first phase of their procedures in so-called “Arrival, Decision and Return” (AnkER) centres. However, most Federal States refused to implement the concept, claiming that existing institutions (especially the “arrival centres”) already fulfilled the purposes that had been set out in the coalition agreement. At the end of 2018, only three Federal States (Bavaria, Saxony and Saarland) had agreed to establish AnkER centres, in most cases just by renaming their existing facilities. Asylum seekers may be required to stay for up to 24 months in AnkER centres if their applications are rejected as manifestly unfounded or inadmissible, with limitations on freedom of movement and no access to the labour market. AnKER centres are drawing important criticism from refugee associations, NGO’s and other local actors.

Applications and decisions: The number of first asylum applications dropped to 161,931 from 198,317 in 2017. In particular, fewer applicants were registered for several of the most important countries of origin of asylum seekers, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea. About 35% of decisions resulted in a protection status for applicants, but an exceptionally high number of asylum procedures were abandoned without an examination of the substance of the case (either because the application was considered “inadmissibile” or because the procedure was discontinued for other reasons). If only those procedures in which a decision on the substance of the asylum claim took place are taken into account, the overall recognition rate was at 50.2% in 2018.

Asylum procedure

Information for asylum seekers: With the start of operation of AnkER centres on 1 August 2018, a new practice of “independent counselling” for asylum seekers was initiated. However, these counselling services are now provided by dedicated BAMF officials. This raises concerns with regard to the independence of the counselling services. In practice, counselling by the BAMF consists of group sessions providing general information on obligations and rights in the asylum procedure.

Dublin: The BAMF issued 54,910 outgoing Dublin requests and implemented 9,209 transfers, most of which to Italy. As of early 2019 in certain reception centres, the applicant is informed of the date of the transfer and required to be in his or her room during a specificed time pick-up by the police in view of the transfer. If the applicant fails to be present for that appointment, the BAMF extends the transfer deadline from 6 to 18 months on grounds of “absconding”, and material reception conditions can be reduced.

Deportations after refusal of entry: In 2018 a new procedure was introduced which enables the Federal Police to refuse entry at the Austrian-German land border. The aim of the new approach is to facilitate the immediate removal of “Dublin cases” to the Southern European countries. However, these returns are taking place without a Dublin procedure, as they are not based on the Dublin Regulation but on refusal of entry implemented through administrative arrangements with other EU Member States. At the beginning of 2019, only two of these agreements had been concluded with Spain and Greece and only 11 forced returns had taken place on the basis of the new approach, 9 to Greece and 2 to Spain.

Reception conditions

Detention capacity: Different Federal States have increased the number of pre-removal detention places. Bavaria has set up two new pre-removal centres, one in Erding and one at Munich Airport (“Hangar 3”), with 35 and 30 places respectively.

Content of international protection

Withdrawal: Following several “scandals” surrounding decision-making processes at the BAMF, mass re-examinations of asylum decisions from former years took place. In 2018, the BAMF initiated more than 192,500 “revocation examination procedures” in 2018 for decisions in which a protection status had been granted, especially in cases which had been decided under a written procedure. It concluded 85,502 of these procedures and found in almost 99% of cases that the status should be upheld. Only in 1.2% of cases was status revoked or withdrawn.

Following new legislation entering into force in December 2018, beneficiaries of protection are now obliged to cooperate fully with authorities in revocation and withdrawal procedures. Before December 2018, refugees were only given an opportunity to submit a written reply. The new law now authorises the BAMF to place on refugees obligations which are almost identical with obligations applicable during the asylum procedure. This includes: the obligation to attend an interview, the obligation to cooperate with authorities in clarifying identity, including the obligation to hand over identity documents or other certificates; the obligation to undergo other identification measures to clarify their identities, especially photographs and fingerprints.

Family reunification: Entitlement to family reunification has been abolished for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as of August 2018. Instead, 1,000 family members of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection shall be granted a visa to enter Germany each month, according to the new law.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.