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German minister wants asylum center overhaul

Nicole Goebel
March 29, 2018

Germany's new interior minister, Horst Seehofer, wants to open the first so-called "anchor center" in the autumn. Many migrants are to be housed there from arrival to deportation. But police are skeptical.

Asylum center in Manching, Bavaria
This asylum center in Bavaria could be the model for Seehofer's ambitious plansImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is pressing ahead with his "masterplan" to speed up deportations of asylum seekers and refugees and streamline asylum procedures.

Deputy Minister Stephan Mayer told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that opening a so-called "anchor center" in time for the Bavarian state elections in mid-October had "the highest priority."

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"I'm confident that we can present more detailed plans after the Easter weekend," he told the paper.

Controversial 'masterplan'

Under plans presented by Seehofer when he took over as interior minister, these so-called "anchor centers" are designed to house asylum seekers from their arrival in Germany until their possible deportation. The first one is likely to be built in Bavaria.

Seehofer – who recently said that Islam is not part of Germany  but Muslims are –  has stressed, however, that no one should stay in the centers for more than 18 months and that migrants who are likely to be able to stay in Germany should be allowed to move on from the centers.

Police skeptical

Germany's federal police would ultimately be in charge of the centers as they are responsible for deportations as well as protecting Germany's borders.

Seehofer's aim is to get the federal police more involved in asylum procedures to relieve local and regional authorities.

But police representatives have expressed criticism of the plans, insisting that it is not the federal police's responsibility to ensure security at such centers. Jörg Radek of the Police Union (GdP) has called the plans illegal, as it's not the federal police's responsibility to "police asylum seekers."

"We don't train police officers to run prisons," he told the DPA news agency, adding that he sees the jucidiary and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) as responsible.

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He explained that these centers would fall under the category of "measures that curtail freedom of movement," whereas the federal police's main responsibility is to "avert danger."

Plan hinders integration

Critics have pointed out that migrants often cannot be deported within the 18 months Seehofer has envisioned, as the necessary travel documents are missing and cooperation with some embassies is sketchy. In 2017,Germany processed more asylum applications than all other EU states combined.

Local councils also point out that keeping people in large, often cramped, centers can lead to violence and prevent migrants from getting a chance to integrate in Germany.