European Parliament head calls for harmonizing asylum policy | News | DW | 11.09.2017
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European Parliament head calls for harmonizing asylum policy

The European Parliament's chief has backed a German proposal to harmonize asylum benefits across the bloc. Germany's interior minister argues that generous asylum conditions have a "pull effect" drawing asylum-seekers.

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, on Monday backed a proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to harmonize asylum procedures and benefits across the bloc.

In an interview with Germany's Funke Mediengruppe, Tajani said different asylum standards across the EU had led to "a kind of asylum shopping and to asylum-seekers and refugees moving on" to countries with better benefits and conditions.  

De Maiziere, a top member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said over the weekend in an interview with the Rheinische Post regional newspaper that many refugees want to live in Germany because compared to other European countries, its "procedural and reception conditions are generous" and "the benefits for refugees are quite high."

That resulted in a "pull effect" drawing asylum-seekers and refugees to Germany, he said. Germany took in more than one million asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, many preferring the country to other EU states because of the strength of the economy and asylum policies.

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Tajani said that harmonizing asylum procedures and benefits across the bloc would provide relief to countries that offer better conditions.

Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president and leader of the Social Democrats challenging Merkel in the September 24 election, has also backed standardizing asylum procedures and benefits across the bloc. He accused de Maiziere of floating the idea now because of the election.

The opposition Left Party and the Greens are against reducing asylum benefits, arguing it is unconstitutional.

Read: Germany debates tightening asylum laws

Elmar Brok, an EU Parliament member from Merkel's conservatives, told the Rheinische Post he was also against reducing asylum benefits in Germany.

"Instead, the standards in other EU member states should be increased and gradually standardized," he said, adding that refugees should only be allowed to settle in the country where they receive asylum.  

Acknowledging that Germany has a higher cost of living than other EU countries, de Maiziere suggested that a more uniform system could see the creation of possible subsidies for refugees to cover higher living costs on top of an EU agreed-upon benefit sum.

How much do refugees actually get?

Germany's Asylum-Seekers' Benefits Act calls for the state to provide accommodation, food, toiletries, clothes and "essential personal needs" such as telephone cards to communicate with family members back home.

The law states that all these needs are to be fulfilled as much as possible with goods and services rather than with cash.

Depending on which of Germany's 16 states refugees are assigned to, they may get a monthly allowance in cash.

For asylum-seekers living in refugee shelters, single adults receive €135 ($162) a month while married couples receive €129 a month each. Depending on their age, children receive between €76 and €83 a month.

If an asylum-seeker is living outside a refugee shelter, a single adult receives €216 euros a month while married couples receive €122 each.

cw/kms (AFP, epd, Funke Mediengruppe, Rheinische Post)

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