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Opinion: Bavaria isolates itself further

July 28, 2018

Bavaria has unveiled its very own Center for Asylum and Repatriation. But its isolationist approach is sowing division and actually harms the state's ruling CSU party, writes DW's Maximiliane Koschyk.

Markus Söder with binoculars
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Mirgeler

When Bavarian Premier Markus Söder (above photo) of the Christian Social Democrats (CSU) unveiled the southern German state's very own Center for Asylum and Repatriation on Friday, he boldly declared it would make processing asylum applications in Bavaria "more humane and orderly." The new center is located less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Nuremberg-based Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which is in charge of handling all asylum applications throughout Germany.

The brand-new center and its various branches will be serviced by a staff of roughly 1,000. It will take up its work on August 1 and will manage the state's refugee reception centers, which will in future be run as so-called "anchor centers."

Read more: How do deportations work in Germany?

CSU pursues isolationist course

The Center for Asylum and Repatriation is tasked with ensuring rejected asylum-seekers are either rigorously deported from or agree to voluntarily leave Bavaria. Above all, the center is intended to speed up repatriations. And it will do so by a "more liberal interpretation" of Germany's laws on asylum. But rather than achieving a "more humane and orderly" treatment of asylum-seekers, Bavaria's ruling CSU government is in fact distancing itself from Germany's national coalition government and causing division and chaos in the process. And this, even though the CSU only recently helped forge a national compromise on the treatment of asylum-seekers with its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Maximiliane Koschyk
DW's Maximiliane KoschykImage: DW/B.Riegert

But instead of implementing the new consensus reached by Germany's grand coalition comprised of the CSU, CDU and Social Democrats (SPD), Bavaria's state government is once again threatening the stability of Germany's government. Not only that: Bavaria is also deliberately abandoning rules established for all German states. 

Read more: Trouble in Bavarian paradise: Will the CSU's hard-line asylum strategy pay off? 

CSU losing support in Bavaria

It will not be possible to solve the migration crisis without cooperation and a joint effort across society. Trying to go it alone does not work. That much has been made abundantly clear at a European level in recent years. Progress was finally made this summer when EU member states got together and hashed out a deal on how to handle asylum-seekers — partly because of the CSU, which set an ultimatum for German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) to find an agreement. The fact that Bavaria now even wants to promote turning back asylum-seekers at its border with Austria using its own border force will not go down well across Europe.

Yet most of all, Bavaria's CSU government appears to be alienating its own voters. While migration policy is a major issue in the state's upcoming elections, many Bavarians nevertheless take issue with the conservatives' uncompromising approach of late. Indeed, tens of thousand of people in the state capital, Munich, recently took to the streets in protest against the CSU's hard-line stance. Even church representatives, both Catholic and Protestant, chided the Christian Social Democrats.

Approval ratings indicate that the CSU has dropped to a historic all-time low after its protracted spat with the CDU over how to handle asylum-seekers. And the Bavarian state election is only a few months off. But unless Bavarian voters actually vote the CSU out at the polls, it is unlikely the party will reverse its uncompromising and isolationist course.

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