Effective procedures, early integration
To address the challenges posed by the large numbers of refugees in Germany, the Bundesrat has now also approved an extensive legislative package. In the German Bundestag, Chancellor Angela Merkel asked for the motion to be passed in a government statement on 15 October. People not entitled to asylum must leave Germany more quickly; the new legislative provisions will ensure that those who need protection can be given more efficient assistance, said Angela Merkel. "Abstaining on such an important issue is not an option that will help the people in this country."
The Chancellor stressed that no matter how important the planned changes are, these steps alone will not be enough to resolve the refugee crisis. "More will be needed." Further legislative changes must follow. What is most important, though, is that Europe act together. The refugee crisis is not only a "national effort", but a "historic test for Europe".
Trans-boundary joint efforts
The legislative package is a joint effort that crosses state boundaries. "Reality makes for majorities," said Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in the German Bundestag. It is his task as Federal Interior Minister to strongly counter every form of hatred and violence, he added.
"Refugees must respect our laws," said Thomas de Maizière. That applies to respecting our constitution or Basic Law, to respecting fundamental civil rights and to showing respect and decency in the way we live together," added the minister.
Go-ahead for legislative changes
In addition to changes to the Asylum Procedures Acceleration Act and the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act, the new package also makes provision for changing the employment ordinance and the integration course ordinance.
The major objectives of the legal changes are to speed up asylum procedures and eliminate unwanted incentives. The federal government is also to ease the financial burden of the federal states and local authorities. Refugees are to be fully integrated at an early stage. People with no prospects of remaining in Germany are to be returned to their home countries more rapidly.
The package is based on the decisions taken on 24 September 2015 at the meeting of the federal and state governments on asylum and refugee policy. Against the background of the current refugee situation, the Chancellor and the premiers of the federal states took concrete decisions.
The measures in detail
Easing the burden on the federal states
The federal government is to significantly ease the burden on the federal states and will provide a lump sum of 670 euros a months per refugee to cover costs. This will become available as of the date of registration and will continue to be paid until the procedure is ended. On average procedures last about five months. The aim is to speed up proceedings.
Preventing unwanted incentives
Unwanted incentives for people with no prospects of being permitted to stay are to be avoided. Thus their personal needs, which have hitherto been covered by issuing "pocket money", are to be provided in kind as far as possible. This applies to the entire period spent by refugees in reception facilities. Cash payments will be made no more than one month in advance.
Safe countries of origin
Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro are to be designated safe countries in order to further speed up the processing of request for asylum filed by nationals of these countries. Asylum-seekers from safe countries filing a request for asylum after 1 September 2015 will not be permitted to work.
Integration courses and employment
People with good prospects of being permitted to stay are to be integrated into the labour market at an early stage. For this they will need a good command of German more than anything else. That is why the federal government is to open the integration courses run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to asylum-seekers and those with tolerated residence status. Funding is to be made available to this end. The integration courses are also to be better dovetailed with the occupational language courses offered by the Federal Employment Agency.
Building accommodation more quickly
Some of the amended provisions of the Asylum Procedures Acceleration Act also relate to construction planning law, in an effort to provide winter-proof accommodation for refugees more rapidly. The package of laws offer the federal states very far-reaching opportunities to plan, approve and implement measures to build new accommodation or approve the change of use of others.
Assistance for minors among refugees
A law to improve the accommodation of and care for foreign children and young people has also been passed. The aim is to improve the situation of young refugees who arrive in Germany without their parents. To guarantee that children and young people are housed where appropriate care can be provided, there will in future be a federal- and state-wide reception obligation. The minimum age at which individuals will be deemed to be able to act independently in asylum procedures is to be raised from 16 to 18.
The amendments are to come into effect on 1 November.