The Federal Cabinet has adopted a package of measures relating to migration. It includes regulations designed to curb the smuggling of human beings and irregular migration, promote digitalisation and relieve the strain on agencies dealing with foreign nationals. The package of measures is introduced in addition to the .
The new package also provides for better access to the labour market for asylum seekers with good prospects of staying in Germany. Furthermore, adjustments will be made in the area of residence permits for foreign nationals who are taking part in vocational training and would otherwise be required to leave the country.
Here is an overview of the new rules:
Curbing smuggling of human beings
Illegal smuggling of human beings is increasingly turning into a profitable line of business of organised crime. Smugglers are acting ever more recklessly towards the smuggled individuals and police officers, and their inconsiderate and illegal use of vehicles poses a threat to uninvolved third parties, too.
The new draft therefore provides for harsher possible sentences for offences related to the smuggling of human beings:
- The minimum sentence in cases according to Section 96 (1) of the German Residence Act (AufenthG) is raised from three to six months, and the minimum sentence in cases pursuant to Section 96 (2) AufenthG is raised to one year.
- A new criminal offence is defined for particularly brutal and reckless “breakthrough cases”, in which offenders severely violate traffic regulations in order to avoid a police check. Such breakthrough cases will be regarded as an aggravating element of an offence in future.
- The possible range of sentences for smuggling of human beings resulting in death is adjusted to allow for a life sentence in cases where such death is caused at least through carelessness.
In the past, a life sentence was not possible, even in cases in which a large number of human beings died in refrigerated lorries or boats that were not seaworthy.
In addition, the new rules provide for a change to the Criminal Procedure Code that will authorise the investigating authorities to monitor telecommunication in relation to any crimes related to smuggling of human beings, aiming to effectively combat and destroy the structures of organised illegal smuggling of human beings.
Improved labour market integration
The new rules will also improve labour market integration for individuals with a residence permit, as well as tolerated persons. The Federal Chancellor stressed the importance of this rule at the end of October: “We are opening up a much-needed legal path for immigration of workers and talent to Germany, which we need to make sure that our economy grows rather than shrinks.”
Here is an overview of the individual arrangements:
- Asylum seekers staying in reception centres will be permitted to work after six rather than nine months.
- Existing exclusions, such as for nationals of safe countries of origin, will remain in place.
- The discretionary power of agencies dealing with foreign nationals concerning the granting of work permits is established as a circumscribed power, in order to ensure that the rules are applied consistently across Germany. This means that when granting a work permit, agencies dealing with foreign nationals will be bound more closely by the content of the regulation, and will only be permitted to deviate from it under special circumstances, as narrower limits are set when it comes to deviations.
- A work permit cannot be granted when concrete action for terminating a person’s stay in Germany is imminent.
- Adjustments will also be made with regard to tolerated stays for working individuals.
Better data exchange between authorities
The package of measures also includes rules for improving data exchange, to enable better digital data exchange between agencies dealing with foreign nationals and service authorities. The digitalisation measures are also intended to reduce the strain on these authorities. The draft law thus implements the essential elements of the resolutions of the Federal Chancellor and the heads of government of the Länder from 10 May 2023 and 15 June 2023.
Adjustments to residence permits
From 1 March 2024, foreign nationals who would otherwise be required to leave Germany but are tolerated because they are taking part in vocational training will be granted a residence permit instead.