The constitutional court in the city of Osnabrück, Germany, ruled on Wednesday that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has three months to approve or deny the refugee status of a Somali who launched a suit after being made to wait over 16 months without word on his application for asylum.
Should the BAMF fail to approve or deny his application by the appointed time, it will be forced to pay a fee, according to German daily "Die Welt."
The newspaper reported that "overwork" currently facing the BAMF in the wake of new refugee arrivals was cited by the court as a reason for the lengthy asylum procedure, and it appeared Wednesday's decision would only affect the individual refugee in the lawsuit and not translate to a national mandate.
BAMF failed to act
After fleeing the Islamist terror group al-Shabab, based in his native Somalia, the refugee arrived in Germany in the summer of 2014 and applied for asylum. The judges in Osnabrück agreed with his complaint that this amounted to a failure to act on the application in a timely manner.
Normally, three months is considered an appropriate amount of time for application processing, extended up to six months in times of difficult conditions or increased workload for the officials involved.
The refugee's lawyer had argued, however, that in the case of the current, unprecedented influx of migrants, government offices had a duty to hire more personnel to avoid long waiting periods where an asylum seeker does not know their fate and is barred from working.
The presiding judge said that the BAMF had constantly received more applications than it issued decisions since 2012.
Declining to rule on the plaintiff's application status itself, the court left that to the prerogative of the BAMF. The case was the first of its kind to be decided, though similar suits are pending in other courts.
es/msh (epd, dpa)