• Higher Administrative Court judges in Münster have upheld a lower court’s 2022 ruling that the AfD can be categorised as a potentially extremist organisation.
  • A new system through which asylum seekers receive financial benefits via debit cards has been criticised by migration advocacy groups.
  • Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for more Ukrainian refugees to find jobs amid plans to support voluntary returns to Ukraine.

On 13 May, a German high court ruled that the country’s domestic security services could continue to classify the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as a potentially extremist organisation and retain the right to keep it under surveillance. The AfD has been classified by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) as potentially extreme since 2021. “The court finds there is sufficient evidence that the AfD pursues goals that run against the human dignity of certain groups and against democracy,” the judges wrote in their ruling. “There are grounds to suspect at least part of the party wants to accord second-rank status to German citizens with a migration background,” they added. The ruling comes a few months after the AfD recently faced a backlash following revelations about its “remigration” plan, which called for the mass deportation of migrants and “non-assimilated” German citizens. Commenting on the recent court ruling, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser said: “This ruling shows that our democracy can defend itself. (…) It has tools that protect it from internal threats”.

A recent amendment to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act that limits the use of cash benefits for asylum seekers has been criticised by NGOs for being “discriminatory”. Under the new rule, which was passed by parliament in April, asylum seekers will receive their benefits on a debit card that can be used in local shops and to pay for services. The amount of cash they can withdraw will be limited and they will not be able to make international transfers. The change is reportedly aimed at discouraging migrants from sending money to family and friends abroad or to people smugglers. “It has to be said quite clearly that people are coming because of civil war and persecution – they won’t be deterred by a payment card,” said Wiebke Judith from ECRE member organisation PRO ASYL. “The aim here is to create an instrument of discrimination and to bully refugees,” she added. The implications of the new regulation are potentially particularly stark in Germany as the country is much more cash-centric than many of its European neighbours and many of its businesses do not accept card payments. Jihad Ammuri, a 20-year-old asylum-seeker from Syria, described the problems that he had experienced when trying to use his debit card. “I tried to make a purchase in a shop, but they told me that they do not partner with this card. You can’t buy with it from here. And it’s also not working in all of Germany,” he said.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged more Ukrainian refugees to take up work. According to research conducted by the Polish Economic Institute (PIE), in January 2024, only 18% of Ukrainian refugees living in Germany were employed. “We hope that those who are here from Ukraine, as far as they are able to work, will now start to work,” said Scholz. According to a recent study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), there is a direct correlation between the length of time asylum seekers have been in Germany and their employment rate. “Institutional and policy frameworks are crucial for labour market integration. The acceleration of asylum procedures and the gradual reduction of the periods for employment bans are associated with an increase in the employment rates of refugees,” said Herbert Brücker from the IAB. A lack of knowledge of German has been cited as one of the main hurdles faced by refugees when applying for jobs in Germany. “The German government funds the national language learning programme for newcomers up until the basic level of B1, which is not sufficient for more complex and better paid jobs,” said Franziska Hirschelmann, the chief executive of Jobs4refugees. She also noted that Germany “struggles with the recognition and transfer of skills and qualifications”. Separately, the government is considering incentives for Ukrainians to return to their home country voluntarily. “We are considering how we could support people in making a new start in Ukraine,” said Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze. “Models of so-called circular migration, that is a temporary return, are also conceivable,” she added. A study that was published by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in July 2023 showed that nearly half of the Ukrainian refugees in Germany have expressed interest in staying in the country. As the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for Ukrainian refugees living in the EU is scheduled to end in 2025, their future prospects remain uncertain. Regarding the implications of the end of the TPD for Ukrainians living in Germany, Chancellor Scholz said: “Anyone who is employed here and not guilty of any offence will be almost certainly allowed to stay”.

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