More talks between Federation and Länder to take place

Asylum and refugee policy More talks between Federation and Länder to take place

The Federal Government is planning new talks with the Länder in September. This way, arrangements could be made in time, before the start of the cold season, said the deputy government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz.

The deputy government spokesperson stressed on Friday the Federal Government’s intention to hold talks soon.

Benefits in kind or cash for asylum seekers?

The Federal Government is meanwhile considering going back to providing more social benefits in kind – rather than benefits in monetary form - to asylum seekers. Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière had initiated the debate, arguing in interviews that asylum seekers should receive more social benefits in kind, rather than cash. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is currently examining the extent to which this could be implemented. A spokesperson for the ministry declared on Friday that this was being discussed in light of current reflections by the Federation and the Länder on refugee policy.

The spokesperson emphasised that it should be possible to provide primarily benefits in kind and that the Federal Constitutional Court had not specified that social benefits now had to be provided only in monetary form. 

De Maizière in Eisenhüttenstadt and Deggendorf

Meanwhile Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière informed himself on the ground on the initial registration of refugees. On Thursday (13 August) he visited the Central Foreigners Authority in Brandenburg and the regional office of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BMAF) in Eisenhüttenstadt. Earlier (11 August), de Maizière had been to the Federal Police department in Deggendorf in order to assess the situation there.

In Eisenhüttenstadt de Maizière pointed out that Germany would have to reckon with increasing numbers of asylum seekers. "I must prepare the German public to the fact that the number will be significantly higher than we had previously predicted". The Federal Government should present next week a new forecast of the expected number of refugees. De Maizière also strongly condemned the attacks on refugee shelters: "This is incomprehensible, unacceptable and unworthy of our country." The Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration added to the criticism in a newspaper interview: “I wish that we could elucidate and sanction these acts more rapidly. This does not always happen quickly enough. It is therefore all the more important that the state and the population send out very clear signals that such attacks will never be tolerated."

Regional offices of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has regional offices in all of Germany’s federal states. The regional offices conduct asylum procedures. They also coordinate integration at the regional level and carry out migration-related tasks.

Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen also did some travelling in order to inform herself about the situation of refugees. On Thursday (13 August) she paid a visit to the refugee accommodation in the Grünten barracks in Sonthofen. She stressed the "special role of the Bundeswehr in coping with the influx of refugees. An area of the army barracks in Sonthofen was transferred to the Institute for Federal Real Estate (BImA) in order to accommodate refugees. 

Shortening asylum procedures

The Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier pressed for a speedup of asylum procedures. "We must improve, we must become faster," he declared in an interview with the German broadcaster ZDF (3 August). He also said he was optimistic about clearing the backlog of some 240,000 open asylum applications. The aim is to shorten the procedures so that asylum laws can be applied and abuses prevented.

The measures taken by the Federal Government to shorten procedures are proving effective. Already, applications for asylum are being dealt with faster. New figures published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior indicate that on average 5.3 months is required to process a request for asylum. This marks a significant reduction when compared to the 7.1 months required only last year. "We are not resting on our laurels though. We intend to speed things up further," declared a spokesperson of the Federal Interior Ministry on 27 July.

Processing times are already much shorter for applicants from some high-priority countries of origin. Applications from citizens of Kosovo, for instance, are already processed within two months. 

Joint action plan of federal and state governments takes effect

One reason for this trend is the improved human resources now available to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). These past months, 650 positions were filled. Another 1,000 jobs are planned for 2016, said a spokesperson of the Federal Interior Ministry.

The increase in staff is part of an action plan agreed on by the federal and state governments at a meeting on 18 June. Asylum proceedings are to be accelerated and the existing backlog of applications cleared. 

Safe countries of origin

The Federal Interior Ministry spokesperson also pointed to the Law on the Classification of other Countries as Safe Countries of Origin. Since November 2014 this status has applied to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. The rising numbers of applicants from these countries has been braked strongly, reported the spokesperson.

European Commission funds

The European Commission is also providing a financial contribution to the costs associated with the reception and integration of refugees and the implementation of asylum procedures in the 28 member states. Germany could receive around 350 million euros until 2020.