The Bundesrat is debating a new round of asylum regulations. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been pressed to curb the number of refugees, with total arrivals expected to exceed 3 million in the coming years.
Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, is set to decide the fate of a new set of asylum regulations on Friday. The measures, whichpassed the lower house Bundestag
by a wide margin the day before, has garnered significant criticism from opposition parties.
Pressure has been mounting on Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government to deal more strictly with the refugee crisis.
Although Merkel initially adopted an open-door policy, especially toward Syrians fleeing civil war, a number of developments have forced Berlin to reconsider its policies following a newspaper report suggesting that Germany could receive up to 3.6 million refugees by 2020.
Merkel had already worked on reducing the number of asylum applicants in Germany by having North African countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria declared "safe countries of origin."
The asylum package currently under discussion came about after months of heated debate. New measures include setting up fast-track asylum processing centers, which would decide the fate of certain groups of migrants in as little at three weeks. This would apply to those from "safe" countries or those who have been uncooperative with authorities.
New regulations also make it more difficult to avoid deportation for medical reasons.
Policy of 'deprivation'
"You are separating families," Katrina Göring-Eckardt of the opposition Green Party criticized the new laws during the Bundestag debate
The most heavily criticized part of the new legislation affects refugees who are granted only restricted protection under the law because they have been deemed not to be "personally persecuted" in their homelands. This prevents refugees - including minors who are separated from their parents - from sending for their families to join them in Germany for two years.
"The federal government continues its policy of deprivation. ... Agreement on the Second Asylum Package continued as usual with failures and breakdowns," the opposition Left party posted on its website.
The measures passed in the Bundestag by a margin of 429-147 with four abstentions. The Bundesrat, which represents Germany's 16 states at the federal level, does not have the same power as the lower house to craft legislation but does have final approval over most laws.