On 19 September 2014, the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) passed a law according to which Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina will be added to the list of safe countries of origin. Applications of asylum seekers from these countries will be considered as manifestly unfounded. Therefore, these applications will not be examined on their merits, unless asylum seekers present facts or evidence that they might be persecuted in spite of the general situation in the country of origin. Until now, the list of safe countries of origin in Germany consisted of Ghana and Senegal in addition to all EU Member States.
The new law follows a rise in asylum applications by citizens from these countries, which represented a sixth of all asylum applications in 2013. Since most of the applicants from these countries are likely to belong to the Roma minority, the bill has been criticized for discriminating against Roma, who often live in slums on the edge of society in these countries, with limited access to education, health, water or electricity. Human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Pro Asyl, and representatives of the German Roma minority have strongly criticized the law for undermining the applicants’ right to an individual examination of their cases.
This amendment was part of a larger bill on asylum reform which also reduced time restrictions on asylum seekers’ access to the labour market. Asylum seekers will now be allowed to work three months after submitting their asylum application, instead of the current nine months waiting period. Furthermore, 15 months after lodging their asylum application, candidates from Germany and EU States will no longer be prioritised over asylum seekers for a job opening. This priority review does not apply to occupations where there is a shortage of candidates and academics. These new terms apply both to asylum seekers and people with a “tolerated stay”, i.e. people with a temporary suspension on their deportation.
Furthermore, benefits in kind outside of the initial reception centres will be replaced by a cash allowance, meaning people will be able to choose what items to buy.
The new law is expected to take effect before the end of the year.
For further information
- Deutsche Welle, Doubts about Western Balkans as ‘safe countries of origin’, 19 September 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, Safe countries of origin: an inconvenient truth, 30 March 2012
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 September 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.