Taking swift action to implement migration agreements

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Talks between the Federal Government and the Länder on refugee policy Taking swift action to implement migration agreements

Germany continues to face a considerable challenge in terms of migration. The only way to accommodate and integrate refugees is through human kindness and order in conjunction with management and limits on irregular migration.

6 min reading time

Federal Chancellor Scholz gives a press conference after meeting the Heads of Government of the Länder.

Speaking after the Federation-Länder Talks, Federal Chancellor Scholz said, “It’s a good sign for our country that we stand together to face major challenges.”

Photo: Federal Government/Güngör

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Heads of Government of the Länder have met to discuss progress towards the implementation of their joint agreements on refugee and migration policy. After the meeting the Federal Chancellor described a “fundamental change in the management of irregular migration to Germany”. Scholz described how everyone involved, the Federal and Länder Governments alike, felt responsible for upholding their end of the bargain, something which was essential in a federal state.

The Federal and Länder Governments initiated measures to limit irregular migration on 10 May, 15 June and 6 November 2023. In the talks on Wednesday it was noted that many of the measures agreed last year were already having an effect. However, there remains a need to implement other measures in a swift and thorough way, particularly with regard to further limiting irregular migration.

Additional measures agreed

“The laws have been passed. They have been set in motion. They create the policy, regulatory and enforcement framework we need to improve handling and management of irregular migration,” Scholz said. The Federal Chancellor stressed that he expects the new measures to be enforced across the whole country. “We will only succeed if we join forces and combine our efforts,” he said.

The Federal and Länder Governments adopted additional measures at the meeting on Wednesday. The key facts at a glance:

  • Speeding up asylum procedures: In order to fundamentally speed up asylum procedures, over 1,100 new jobs are being created at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The Federal Government is making available an additional 300 million euros to the BAMF and the Federal Office of Administration to allow them to deal with asylum applications more quickly and expand the Central Register of Foreign Nationals. The Conference of Ministers of Justice was asked to explore other potential ways of speeding up judicial asylum procedures and to present their findings before the meeting between the Federal Chancellor and the Head of Government of the Länder on 20 June 2024.
  • Additional support to help municipalities provide accommodation: The Federal Government continues to make properties in its portfolio available to municipalities. The Building Code regulations governing accommodation for refugees have been extended to the end of 2027.
  • Financial solidarity between Federal, Länder and Municipal authorities: The Federal Government plans to present a draft law to amend the Fiscal Equalisation Law (FAG) in the near future. This will allow advance payments to the Länder worth 1.75 billion euros for 2024 to be made in the first half of the year. The payments were agreed in November 2023.
  • Decision on protected status for refugees in transit and third countries: The Federal Minister of the Interior is currently taking expert advice from a range of areas. The aim is to decide if it is possible to determine whether refugees have protected status while they are still in transit or in third countries in future while also complying with the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Integrating refugees into the labour market: Efforts are being stepped up to integrate refugees into the labour market. The Federal Government’s 2024 budget allocates 1.2 billion euros for initial orientation and integration courses and migration counselling for adults. The work of integration guides in municipalities supplements this provision. A key element in helping refugees integrate into the labour market involves recognising qualifications they have gained abroad. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder was asked to see if recognition procedures can be simplified and sped up. This includes increasing staffing in offices which handle recognition, consolidating country-specific skills, and further harmonisation of recognition rules between the Länder.

Integration into the labour market was absolutely vital, said the Federal Chancellor, who noted that a range of decisions had been taken to this end. Scholz explained that many of the bans imposed on refugees to prevent them from working had been lifted. The Federal Chancellor also emphasised the importance of getting as many people currently staying in Germany into work and employment quickly so they can contribute to both our economy and our mutual coexistence.

Much progress has already been made:

Domestic policy

  • The legal steps to strip away bureaucracy from asylum and foreign nationals law came into force on 27 February 2024. The Federal Government announced monthly access payments and provides daily updates.
  • The Law to Improve Repatriation came into force on 27 February 2024. One key element of the law is that it makes it easier to deport traffickers and other persons involved in organised crime. Those who are not entitled to stay in Germany, dangerous individuals, and criminals, will be returned to their home countries more quickly.
  • Amendments to laws governing benefits for asylum seekers also came into force on 27 February 2024. Under these changes, the automatic right to so-called “analogous benefits” becomes effective after 36 months, rather than 18 months as was previously the case.
  • The Federal Government has agreed the necessary wording changes for the Bundestag to amend the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. The new rules aim to create a consistent framework for introducing a payment card in the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. It is up to each of the Länder to design its own payment card, although minimum standards have been agreed and tenders have been announced for the introduction of payment cards.
  • Regulations on giving refugees access to work also came into force on 27 February 2024. Refugees living in reception centres can now start working after six months rather than after nine months, as was previously the case. Immigration authorities will also be more generous in issuing work permits. However, individuals who are to be deported in the near future will not benefit from this measure.

Foreign policy

  • Last year’s political agreement on the Common European Asylum System marks an important reform to protect Europe’s external borders and create a fair, efficient and resilient European asylum system. The Federal and Länder Governments agree that the European border protection agency Frontex must be strengthened in operational terms so it can employ suitable border protection measures to reduce unauthorised entry.
  • The Federal Government is conducting talks as a matter of urgency with key countries of origin. A migration agreement was signed with Georgia on 19 December 2023 and a migration partnership was agreed with Morocco on 23 January 2024. Germany and Colombia have also agreed to collaborate closely with a view to managing migration. The Federal Government is currently in similar negotiations with Moldova, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, and Kenya.
  • Internal border controls are still in place on internal borders with Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland. The Federal Government has imposed effective border policing measures in this area. The Federal and Länder governments are working closely together to combat people trafficking and irregular immigration.

State Premiers’ Conferences (MPK) are meetings of the Heads of Government of the 16 Länder with the aim of coordinating policy. The conferences focus on federal and state-level issues as well as current European and international questions. They take place in March and October. The state premiers meet with the Federal Chancellor twice a year. The chair of the State Premiers’ Conference rotates between the Länder on an annual basis. Hesse is the current chair of the conference.