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Germany: Cuts for asylum seekers?

September 17, 2015

Drastic social welfare cuts in draft German asylum law have been condemned by welfare groups and opposition parties. The interior ministry's bill would accelerate migrant expulsions and declare Balkan nations to be safe.

Bildergalerie Flüchtlingsdrama in Freilassing
Image: picture alliance/AA/L. Barth

Germany's federated social welfare groups on Thursday branded asylum law amendments drafted by aides to Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière as a "wild reaction" to recent refugee arrivals.

"Denying existential essentials to people in hardship is cynical and inhumane," said the federation's chief executive, Ulrich Schneider.

Thomas De Maiziere
De Maizière's ministrial law draft has drawn criticismImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Annegret Hilse

There was no immediate comment from the ministry on the planned changes to the Asylum seekers' Benefits Act or Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz in German.

It outlines what asylum seekers need for day-to-day life.

De Maiziere, who said on Thursday that Germany was still up to the "challenge" of hosting newcomers, lost the head of his ministry's BAMF Nuremburg agency for migration.

Manfred Schmidt, a senior jurist, stepped down without notice.

Accelerated procedures

Within hours, details of the bill formulated by officials within de Maiziére's ministry became public, showing that migrants rejected under accelerated procedures would be expelled with only a travel ticket and supplies such as food.

Ulrich Schneider Hauptgeschäftsführer Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband
'Inhumane," says social welfare spokesman SchneiderImage: picture alliance/Eventpress Stauffenberg

Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro would be added to Germany's list of "safe countries of origin." Asylum seekers from such "safe" countries are highly unlikely to win refugee status, unless they can demonstrate a personal case for danger or persecution at home.

The investigative ARD public broadcasting programme "Monitor" said the draft emerged in ministerial circles on Monday.

'Outrageous,' says Pro Asyl

The Frankfurt-based organization Pro Asyl (Pro Asylum) said it was "outrageous" that tens of thousands of recently-arrived migrants were to be evicted from Germany into "homelessness" under a policy of "isolation and deterrence."

"People will be denigrated so as to drive them out of the country," said Pro-Asyl head Günter Burkhardt.

Opposition Greens party co-chair Simone Peter said the law draft exaggerated the situation for asylum seekers in an "intolerable way."

The interior affairs spokeswoman for the Left party, Ulla Jelpka, accused de Maizíere of practicing "exclusion instead of integration."

Berlin Deutscher Bundestag Ulla Jelpke Partei Die Linke
Germany showing 'ugly' face, says JelpkeImage: picture alliance/ZB/B. Pedersen

"The new plans of the interior minister show an ugly face, not the friendly face of Germany," Jelpka said.

Strictures under draft law

Under the draft amendment to Germany's asylum grants law, migrants who arrived via other EU nations that are signatories to the nation-of-first-entry Dublin process would have no claim to rudimentary welfare entitlements.

The draft also states that the "enforcement of existing departure requirements will be made easier."

Refugees unable to leave Germany because of "self-induced expulsion obstacles" would be banned from obtaining employment and lose claims to social welfare.

Border authorities would also examine whether another EU nation was responsible for that individual's application for asylum.

A fit adult-age asylum seeker who rejected a job offer would lose their entitlement to statutory grants, despite openess by German industry to new recruits.

Unequal handling

After talks within Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government last week, de Maizière said it was not acceptable that "those who have to leave our country" still received the same welfare as those whose applications were still being processed.

Germany's welfare federation, the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, groups several dozen major welfare organizations for children, youth and the elderly.

Germany's main law for deciding on asylum applications is the Asylum Procedure Act.

ipj/msh (dpa, epd, AFP)