Germany’s Olaf Scholz and regional leaders agreed to modernise IT system to fasten expulsions, extend maximum detention period from 10 days to 28 days and reach new “migrant partnership” with countries of origins. The country’s interior minister calls for a “change” in migration policies to include processing of asylum cases at EU’s external borders or third countries amid an increase in attacks on asylum accommodations.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the heads of Germany’s 16 states agreed in the “very constructive” refugee summit on 10 May to introduce tougher measures to tackle migration. The agreement comes following a pressure from regional leaders concerning the growing number of asylum seekers and the lack of housing and spaces in education facilities. ECRE’s AIDA Report on Germany reported that in 2022, a total of 244,132 applicants lodged applications for international protection in the country, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey in addition to the million people who arrived from Ukraine and pointed out the reception crisis for both asylum seekers and temporary protection holders. The “inhumane proposals” adopted include a modernisation of IT systems to fasten expulsions of rejected asylum cases, extension of the maximum detention period from 10 to 28 days and expansion of “migrant partnerships” with third countries. The modernisation of IT systems focuses on giving new powers to federal police for “danger prevention”. This includes increased surveillance and tacking of migrants’ mobile phones when crossing the border. “Controlling and limiting irregular migration” is a priority for Germany, Scholz said. The Chancellor also promised a further one billion euros for German states struggling to provide housing and other basic needs to the increasing number of migrants in response to regional leaders’ pledge to the federal governments for support. However, the meeting didn’t result in long-term funding to states, what states have been calling for, and the negotiations on the model of federal assistance will be continued in November.  “This billion is important, but of course it doesn’t solve the fundamental question,” said Stephan Weil, governor of Lower Saxony state. The federal government decided against the implementation of permanent border controls with neighbouring countries despite calls from Ministers of Interior of Brandenburg and Saxony to reinstate internal checks with Poland and the Czech Republic. Currently, Germany applies fixed controls to people passing through Austria. ECRE member, Pro Asyl described the agreement as “human rights disaster” and Seebrücke International said: “A refugee summit that is primarily concerned with how to fight refugees cannot succeed. It is the real problems on location, as well as the often inhumane accommodation, which must be fought!”.

Ahead of the summit, speaking to the European Parliament in Strasburg on 9 May, the chancellor urged EU partners to work “with all our strength” on completing a reform of the bloc’s migration rules before next year’s European election without turning an eye to European values as his government is revitalising externalisation ideas. “We are united by the goal of better managing and regulating irregular migration — without betraying our values,” he said.  Meanwhile, his country’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, calls for a “change” in the EU’s migration policies to limit arrivals. The “change” she wants to see is for the “registration, reception and identification” of migrants to happen at the borders in cooperation with other member states including France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Belgium. Former Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who failed previously to materialise such proposals, praised Faeser’s campaigning efforts for asylum procedures to happen at the EU’s external borders. Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson called Germany’s plans “important” stating “This is necessary in order to control irregular migration and to ensure that returns are functioning, fast but humanely”. Meanwhile, NGOs and progressive politicians have raised concerns.  The co-leader of the German Greens, Omid Nouripour agreed that Europe-wide solutions are needed, adding that “What is definitely not possible is undermining fundamental rights and preventing people from submitting an application for asylum, which is then also checked. We need humanity and order”.  Seebrücke International described Faeser’s policies as “racist”, underlining that processing asylum seekers’ cases at external borders “would result in mass camps and detention centres along Europe’s borders and will increase the suffering at the borders”. Pro Asyl described the proposal as a “horror scenario”, adding that “What is referred to in the debate as asylum procedures at the external borders has nothing to do with a fair, constitutional process”. In a letter, the organisation called on the Federal government to “not agree to the de facto abolition of access to a fair asylum procedure in the EU after examining individual reasons for protection”.

Interior Minister Faeser also said that the government is examining possibilities to offshore asylum procedures amid plans to establish migration agreements with third countries” but “based on the rule of law”. These proposals are not new – Germany has been exploring several “possible” models including an approach to send people rescued in the sea to Tunisia, Morocco, Niger or Moldova to have their asylum applications processed there. ECRE has long called such proposals “unworkable” due to extensive legal, political and practical obstacles and referred to the failures of other attempts between Denmark and the UK with Rwanda but “with zero results”. Meanwhile, on 2 May, Germany signed an initial agreement on migration with Uzbekistan to “make it easier to deport people”. German special representative for migration agreements Joachim Stamp said the agreement is part of the German government’s long-term plan to establish a sustainable and mutual migration partnership with countries of origin”. The German government is also planning to strengthen cooperation with Uzbekistan in the field of labor migration through joint projects on the training and employment of Uzbek nationals in Germany. Stamp has recently visited Georgia and Moldova to discuss deportations. In a meeting held on 25 March, both Georgian Minister of Justice and Stamp discussed potential initiatives for “the promotion of legal migration” including how to protect the rights of “legal migrants” and reduce the number of “illegal migrants”.

Meanwhile, the number of attacks on asylum accommodations has skyrocketed for the first time since 2015. Refugee advocates blame it on the anti-migrant rhetoric. In 2022 alone, at least 188 people were injured in attacks against refugees including 21 children. “This disturbing development is not surprising given the right-wing sentiment in the country. Conservatives like Friedrich Merz [federal chairman of the conservative Christian Democratic Union], who use verbal ascriptions and speak disparagingly of „social tourists“ or „little pashas”, deliberately contribute to the aggravation of exclusion and ultimately to attacks”, said Clara Bünger, a member of the Bundestag.

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