The recently agreed coalition agreement between Germany’s conservative Christian parties (Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Socialist Union (CSU)) and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) was described by ECRE Member Organisation Pro Asyl as a “general disappointment[,… promoting] migration control at EU’s borders and with only a few relaxations of asylum policies inside the country”.

Pro Asyl criticised the reclassification of Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as ‘safe countries of origin’. As a consequence, asylum applications lodged by persons from these countries are subjected to accelerated procedures and will be considered ‘manifestly unfounded’. Franziska Keller, Member of the EU Parliament for the Green party, has expressed concern that this will undoubtedly affect applications made by persons of Roma origin. Pro Asyl points out that in the first half of 2013 asylum seekers of Roma origin attained a 10% recognition rate in Switzerland and Belgium, demonstrating that there is still a need for international protection. “You always have to see the individual situation instead of declaring that ‘certain countries are safe now’,” says Keller. Maria Böhmer, Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, also expressed recently concerns regarding “extensive discrimination” against Roma in the Balkans.

Contrary to the dissatisfaction voiced within the SPD and its declaration for “change in the course of European asylum policy”, referring among others to the second Lampedusa catastrophe, the coalition agreement promotes further barriers to access to EU territory. According to MEP Keller, instead of focusing on migration control, the EU needs “to create legal ways to get into Europe. But there is no mention of that in the coalition agreement”. Friedo Pflüger, Director of German Jesuit Refugee Service, pointed that of the 5,000 Syrian refugees that Germany had committed to welcome in the country under the humanitarian admission programme, only 1,000 have arrived in Germany.

Pro Asyl  warns that cooperation between the EU and thus Germany with third countries, i.e. countries of origin and transit countries, on controlling irregular migration is another attempt in “using North African States as doormen to the gates of Europe by promising economic and development aid in return for keeping refugees outside of Europe”.

Pro Asyl also criticises the missing “necessary humanitarian responses to the asylum crisis in the EU”. According to Pro Asyl, despite demands for “solidarity among EU Member States”, this is not further elaborated on within the coalition agreement.

Pro Asyl, however, welcomes the granting of residence permits to persons who are “tolerated” on German territory (Gedulete), as they are ineligible for asylum, for many years, as long as they prove they can provide for their subsistence. This amendment would finally address the situation of almost 86,000 persons tolerated on German territory. Furthermore, processing times of asylum applications will be shortened from six to a maximum of three months for the first instance decision. Pro Asyl stresses that this expedition should not affect the quality of decisions and careful examination of individual applications. The coalition agreement also reduces the waiting period for access to the labour market to three months after the asylum application is launched rather than the previously stipulated nine months. However, the “priority rule” providing German and EU citizens prioritised access to Germany’s labour market remains applicable, which according to Pro Asyl entails  a de facto prohibition of work.

Furthermore, the coalition plans to relax restrictions on asylum seekers’ freedom of movement.  Asylum seekers will be allowed to move within the state they live in, not just within the district they are registered.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 06 December 2013
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