Germany adopts stricter asylum rules

Parliament approves legislative changes to restrict right to asylum, swiftly deport illegal migrants

Germany adopts stricter asylum rules

World Bulletin / News Desk

The German parliament approved on Thursday legislative changes that will restrict right to asylum and enable authorities to swiftly deport illegal migrants.

The controversial “Asylum Package II” was approved with 429 lawmakers voting in favor, 147 opposed and 4 abstaining.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative-left coalition government had put its weight behind the legislative package, but 31 lawmakers from the coalition also voted against the changes. Thirty of them were lawmakers of Merkel’s coalition partner Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The opposition Left Party and the Green Party, which have a total of 127 seats at the parliament, sharply criticized the legislative package and voted against the changes.

Dr. Ole Schroder, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, defended the changes, arguing that they will accelerate the asylum application procedures, and those migrants who do not entitle to asylum, will be swiftly returned to their countries.

“For those asylum applicants who are coming from a safe country of origin, or those who disguise their true identity, we will have swift decisions. That’s a fair move, bearing mind the majority of the asylum applicants,” he told lawmakers.

According to new legislation, migrants coming from "safe countries" will be registered at special reception centers, where their application will be examined within a week, and possible objections will be reviewed in the following two weeks. During this period, asylum seekers will not be allowed to leave the municipality where they are registered. Those who fail to receive an asylum status will be promptly deported.

The EU’s largest economy took in a record 1.1 million refugees last year and the numbers have put a strain on local authorities, triggering anti-refugee sentiments and increasing pressure on Merkel ahead of state elections in March.

The government’s move particularly aimed at swiftly deporting economic migrants who come from Balkan states and North African countries, majority of whom are not entitled to asylum.

- Family reunification suspended *

One of the most contentious parts of the package has been the two-year-long suspension of right to “family reunification” for refugees who are not entitled to asylum but allowed to stay in Germany under "subsidiary protection".

The German government defended the move, arguing that it was a difficult but necessary decision to provide some relief to local authorities who are overwhelmed due to record number of refugees arrived last year.

But the opposition has warned that this change would lead more women and children making the dangerous journey to Europe through the Aegean Sea.

The opposition Left Party lawmaker Katja Dorner said the government’s legislative package would not reduce refugee numbers, but would lead to more tragedies.

“Do you know what would actually happen? You will not be able to reduce refugee numbers in this way. But this will force more and more children and women to take the rotten boats,” she told lawmakers at the parliament.

Amid growing public pressure, Chancellor Merkel has moved to adopt stricter laws to stop flow of economically motivated illegal migrants, but defended her open door policy for asylum seekers who fee civil-wars and conflicts.

Merkel has so far dismissed calls for setting an upper limit for refugees or closing borders, and argued that a solution to the current crisis can only be achieved through closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey and by EU members agreeing to share the burden.

At the EU-Turkey summit last November, Brussels and Ankara agreed to take measures to strengthen patrols in the Aegean and to counter people-smuggling gangs ferrying refugees into Europe by sea.

The EU has also promised 3 billion euros ($3.28 billion) aid to Turkey to support projects that would improve the living conditions of refugees hosted in the country and near its borders.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Şubat 2016, 16:33