JAPA : Germany set to tackle refugee asylum policy issues


Germany’s asylum policy reforms will be the subject of a high-level cross-party meeting presided over by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Why the urgency and what is on the agenda?

Each day, Berlin records approximately 200 refugee arrivals.
Each day, approximately 200 refugees arrive in Berlin. They are required to remain for a brief period of time in an initial reception facility, such as the one formerly located at Tegel airport, prior to being transferred to lodging elsewhere within the city. However, accommodations are scarce, and some migrants have been stranded at Tegel for over a year. Approximately 4,000 individuals currently reside there, and an ongoing expansion is planned to provide an additional 8,000 spaces.

The predicament of refugees in the capital of Germany is mirrored in municipalities and communities throughout the nation. As of the beginning of 2023, 220,000 migrants have submitted preliminary asylum applications. Increasing numbers of the one million Ukrainian refugees displaced by the conflict are currently registering with the government in order to be provided with state housing.

Numerous local governments are in “emergency mode.”

Municipalities and district councils throughout Germany have expressed uncertainty regarding where to house the refugees assigned to them per a predetermined distribution formula.

600 of the 11,000 municipalities in Germany participated in an October survey conducted jointly by Mediendienst Integration and migration researchers from the University of Hildesheim. The situation was characterised by nearly 60% of them as “challenging, but [still] feasible.” However, forty percent of respondents indicate that they were “overloaded” or “in emergency mode.”

Accommodation deprivation is merely one factor. Inadequate places are also available in schools and institutions, language courses, and counselling services for traumatised refugees; administrative personnel is also in short supply.

The situation is generally viewed negatively by mayors and district councillors: 53% of respondents said their municipality was “overburdened.”

The aforementioned perspective is ascribed by Miriam Marnich, the spokesman for the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, to the general populace’s increasing discontent with migration policy. “At this time, integration is practically impossible in a number of municipalities due to depleted resources.” “With regard to both personnel and reception capacities,” she explained.

Respondents to the survey suggested that among the solutions, immigration restrictions should be implemented so that fewer individuals are returned to their home municipality, or none at all. In addition, they have requested additional funding and guarantees of trustworthy long-term funding from the federal government.

They are also requesting housing assistance, which could consist of anything from an expansion of social housing programmes to a simplification of legal procedures.


“There is little to gain” from stricter deportation regulations.

A mere 20% of the participants expressed a desire for an increase in deportations. Given the present prominence of the subject in federal and state politics, that is not much, according to Boris Kühn, a researcher on migration at the University of Hildesheim.

Presently, approximately 250,000 individuals in Germany are awaiting denial of asylum applications. Certain individuals are simply untraceable by authorities. However, 200,000 of them cannot be repatriated because their country of origin is a conflict zone, no country is prepared to accept them, or they have life-threatening health conditions that cannot be treated there.


The government drafted a measure to enhance the number of deportations at the end of October. Nonetheless, the majority of cities and municipalities’ contemporary refugee population is comprised of recent arrivals. “So there is actually not much to be gained in terms of numbers through tougher deportation rules,” according to Kühn.

Should social benefits be reevaluated?

Additionally, politicians are debating the possibility of restricting social benefits for refugees, which Germany currently offers to a greater extent than numerous other member states of the European Union. Conservative politicians have proposed that refugees be attracted to Germany by means of a “pull factor” and have advocated for reducing or eliminating cash payments to newly arrived individuals.

However, migration scholars have expressed disapproval of these requirements. “The benefits-in-kind principle was attempted twice, once in the 1990s and again in 2015, but neither time did it prove to be workable,” Niklas Hader of the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research in Berlin stated.


Although it has been legally feasible to predominantly provide in-kind assistance to refugees for quite some time, states and local governments prefer not to do so because it is significantly more expensive and resource-intensive than simply disbursing cash.


Some legislators advocate providing asylum aspirants with in-kind benefits as opposed to monetary aid.

Some legislators advocate providing asylum aspirants with in-kind benefits as opposed to monetary aid.
Adults residing in initial reception facilities are provided with on-site meals and an extra pocket money allowance of no more than €150 (approximately $160) per month for personal expenses, including phone cards, amenities, and travel tickets. This “pocket money” is constitutionally protected and cannot be reduced arbitrarily, as determined by the constitutional court.


“A reduction in the number of individuals departing for Germany does not necessarily result from a complete reliance on benefits in kind,” Marnich of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities stated. In lieu of this, she recommended that the benefits be distributed uniformly throughout Europe.


Debit card as opposed to currency

A proposed modification under discussion is the substitution of cash payments with payment devices.
These debit cards are currently in use in France, among other nations. In lieu of currency, migrants would be issued a card to which social services authorities would remit remittable allowances for supermarket purchases on a regular basis. However, cash withdrawals are not feasible using this card.

Yet Hader maintains his scepticism. “We all know that you can of course turn the money on a cash card into cash if you really want to,” he reiterated.


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