Germany’s political 
response to the refugee crisis

The number of refugees in Germany has been rising rapidly since early summer 2015. The Federal Government has taken firm action. An overview of the most important decisions.

Until the turn of the year 2014/2015, movements of refu­gees from the Middle East were still relatively moderate. In spring 2015, however, the situation of the people living in camps in the main receiving countries for Syrian refugees – Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – ­deteriorated rapidly because the UNHCR no longer had enough funds to guarantee supplies. More and more people set off on the dangerous journey to Western Europe.

Forecast doubled

18 June 2015: Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met the minister presidents of the German states for the first “refugee summit”. Before the summer, the Federal Government reckoned with a maximum of 400,000 refugees in 2015. On 16 August, however, the Federal Interior Ministry increased its forecast by 100% after the authorities registered over 83,000 refugees in July. On 4 September, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that thousands of refugees waiting in Hungary could enter Germany without checks and without applying the German asylum procedure. This effectively suspended the Dublin III Regulation which stipulates that asylum procedures must be carried out by the states in which asylum seekers first enter the territory of the EU (plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).

EU decision to distribute refugees

22 September: The interior ministers of the EU countries decided to distribute 120,000 refugees among the member states by 2017 although the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voted against the proposal. On 25 September, the Bundestag agreed to make available an additional two billion euros for refugee assistance.

New legislative package

6 October: The Federal Cabinet appointed Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery, as overall political coordin­ator for refugee policy. Ministries were also allocated clear responsibilities. The Federal Interior Ministry remains responsible for overall coordination, while the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooper­ation and Development share ­responsibility for combating the causes of migration and flight. A package of asylum laws intended to speed up asylum procedures and reduce disincentives ­entered into force on 24 October. In the ­future, instead of receiving money bene­fits, as was previously the case, people with no prospect of remaining in the country are to receive benefits in kind where possible. People with good prospects of remaining in Germany are to be integrated into the labour market early. Burdens on states and municipalities were reduced. The Federal Government assumed more costs. Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro were declared safe countries of origin.

Additional funds

5 November: The Federal Government decided to set up asylum centres to carry out recognition procedures and deport­ations. The return of rejected asylum seekers was facilitated by the willingness of the Balkan countries to accept returnees. The Dublin III Regulation was again applied by the Federal Interior Ministry and the Federal Office for Migration and Refu­gees (BAMF) from 10 November onwards. The Federal Government made available an additional one billion euros for refugee assistance.

EU-Turkey summit

30 November: The EU and Turkey agreed a plan of action to overcome the refugee crisis. In return for three billion euros of financial assistance, a package of concessions for Turkish citizens inside the EU and the intensification of EU accession talks, Turkey promised not only to improve the situation in refugee camps, but also to take firmer action against people traffickers and take back migrants from third countries from summer 2016 onwards.

Campaign in Afghanistan

In November, the Federal Foreign Office launched a publicity campaign in Afghani­stan against false rumours and the lies of people traffickers. Using posters and ­social media, the campaign is aimed at Afghan men and women who are considering fleeing to Germany.

Refugee identity card agreed

In December, the Federal Government agreed to introduce a refugee identity card containing not only the refugee’s name, date of birth, place of birth and ­citizenship, but also other information. This decision was taken to speed up the registration of asylum seekers. ▪