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Tightening of Germany's policy on illegal immigration

Published: 07.11.2023

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· German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced a 'historic moment' in Germany's migration policy.

· The compromise worked out at federal and federal state level relates to the asylum application procedure and the way it is funded.

· After the changes, migrants would receive social assistance after three years of residence in Germany and not, as now, after one and a half years.

· The agreement also addresses, among other things, increased border controls.

 

According to the German Federal Police, more than 92,000 people have entered Germany illegally since the beginning of 2023. This far exceeded the figures from 2016, when Germany was struggling with the so-called refugee crisis. The number of asylum applications by September 2023 exceeded 200,000.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed Germany's need for skilled workers, but announced measures to deal with refused asylum seekers and to curb illegal immigration and deport on a massive scale people who have no right to be in Germany. The politician believes that unrestricted immigration will make it impossible to maintain the welfare state in its current form. To this end, permanent checkpoints at the borders with Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, among others, were introduced in October. The growing number of illegal immigrants has influenced the government to adopt a bill on stricter penalties for people smugglers. These measures signify a change in policy (including that of the Green Party) and increased migration controls.

On 6 November, an agreement was reached in Germany on the approach to migration. The federal government and the heads of the Länder reached a compromise to adopt new measures. This is in response to demands from the Länder and municipalities for increased funding for this purpose. The document that has been drafted, entitled 'Flüchtlingspolitik - HumanitätundOrdnung', covers, among other things, the issue of increased border controls, the need for migration agreements with countries of origin and measures to reduce the number of asylum seekers. Measures must be directed towards speeding up the asylum procedure in all Länder in the first instance before the Federal Office for Migration and before the courts - up to a period of six months in principle and a maximum of one year. To this end, the digitisation of the authorities dealing with the aforementioned issues is to be improved. A new solution is to have applicants receive payment cards instead of cash. A key tool to discourage re-migration to Germany is to be the extension of the period necessary to receive social assistance (from 18 months to 36 months of residence in Germany). So far, the attractiveness of the German system has been that after 18 months' stay, both those granted asylum and those who are unlikely to obtain such status receive full social benefits, the same as unemployed Germans, in addition to housing and health insurance. The new flat rate (worked out as part of a huge compromise by the government, which ultimately wanted to reduce these rates significantly in 2024) is to be €7,500 per year and is to cover the asylum seeker's accommodation and integration costs.

Particularly controversial for Germany is the idea, developed within the European Union and supported by Winfried Kretschmann of the Greens, that German asylum procedures should take place by outsourcing them to third countries. However, this EU policy (to deter potential African migrants from attempting unsafe journeys) remains unclear on the practical side, namely which country would host the German asylum authority and whether such a policy would have the desired effect at all.

The German Association of Cities and Municipalities has put forward the idea of a 'migration code'. This would include the regulation of measures for specific groups of migrants, benefits and potential sanctions. In addition, according to chairman Gerd Landsberg, it would be desirable to implement a digital identity card for refugees (covering data, status, work experience, health status).

- Migration policy has been a topic of discussion in Germany for several years, but the debate has been particularly intense in recent weeks. Illegal immigration is a major challenge for the country and local governments today. A significant proportion of Germans want an annual limit to be set for the admission of immigrants and expect effective policies and tangible results from the measures taken by the government," points out Dr. Przemysław Kulawinski of the Ordo Iuris Centre for International Law.

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