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Germany

German Cabinet bill eases rules for asylum seekers

In an effort to compromise with German state governments, the Cabinet has drafted a bill that would eliminate some of the restrictions for asylum seekers. The law seeks to ease residency and employment requirements.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet released a draft bill on Wednesday, which aims to reform the system for asylum seekers across the country. The decision came in response to a proposal by the upper house of parliament - the Bundesrat - in September. It is seen as a compromise to what representatives of the 16 states had proposed.

"The negotiations were difficult and arduous," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters on Wednesday following the Cabinet meeting, adding that the outcome was "well justified."

Under the current law, refugees are distributed across states based on the region's population and tax revenue so as not to overburden any one regional government. The proposed law would still require asylum seekers to maintain residence in their assigned state. However, after three months of living in Germany, they would be allowed to move more freely across state lines, for example to visit friends or relatives.

Another change targets employment restrictions which currently prioritize German and EU citizens. The cabinet proposed on Wednesday that asylum seekers be allowed to compete equally in the job market after a 15-month stay in Germany. Meanwhile, job seekers with expertise in short-staffed fields would not be subjected to any employment restrictions.

The bill also seeks to change social welfare allowances for refugees in Germany. Those living outside of refugee centers would in future be eligible for money from the government instead of vouchers.

The Cabinet called on the Bundesrat to make a decision on the draft law so that state governments may deliberate over the changes by November 7.

Over the last two years, Germany has seen a greater spike in asylum requests than any other EU country. The number of refugees seeking residence jumped 64 percent to 127,023, fuelled largely by unrest in Syria, Iraq and North Africa.

kms/sb (dpa, epd)

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