• Germany's news in English

Germany tries to deter Balkan asylum seekers

AFP · 7 Aug 2015, 08:08

Published: 07 Aug 2015 08:08 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Aug 2015 08:08 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Ideas range from cutting refugees' allowances, to channelling them into separate holding camps, to campaigns in their home countries to discourage them from travelling to Europe's biggest economy.

About half of Germany's 300,000 asylum applications since January have come from the southeast European region that includes Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

In the first five months of 2015, more than 32,000 Kosovars arrived, for example -- more than came from war-torn Syria.

"The high number of migrants from these countries diverts resources that we need to take care of people from the crisis regions," said Manfred Schmidt, head of the Office for Migration and Refugees.

Germany, now Europe's number one destination for asylum seekers, has struggled to process, house and feed a record number, which is expected to top 500,000 this year.

Often of Roma origin, many Balkan nationals come to Germany in hopes of finding work and a better life -- a motivation that, Berlin is at pains to point out, does not qualify them for political asylum.

Fewer than 0.2 percent of their applications are successful, but they often wait for months in refugee centres, flats, residential containers and even tent cities while their applications are processed.

'No economic asylum'

New ideas abound about how to discourage prospective travellers and reduce the backlog of cases in the system, and ideally to cut waiting times to six weeks.

Bavaria state has proposed separating migrants from the Balkans on arrival and placing them in temporary shelters near the border for a speedy return.

The aim is "rapid asylum procedures for people who have no prospect of being able to stay, to relieve the system," said the premier of the conservative southern state, Horst Seehofer.

The Bavarian plan has met with indignation on the political left and among migrant rights groups.

Critics say it stigmatises entire populations and defies each individual's right to apply for asylum, irrespective of their chances.

Many people from the Balkans, especially from ethnic minorities, may suffer harsh discrimination and systemic racism, they argue.

Others charge that separate treatment opens the door further to xenophobia and the targeting of "economic refugees" by far-right groups in a year that has seen a series of attacks and hate speech against the newcomers.

Yet the idea of dealing separately with the Balkans has caught on. The national migration commissioner, Social Democrat Aydan Ozoguz, is open to it, and some regional governments voiced support.

Germany has also intervened "at the source". The embassy in Albania has published advertisements in newspapers stating in bold letters: "No economic asylum in Germany."

Raising the bar

Another step would be to widen the list of nations deemed "safe countries" -- which currently includes Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia -- to also cover Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.

Story continues below…

For the citizens of concerned countries this vastly increases the hurdles for refugee status and has already had a "dampening effect", according to the migration office.

Such a change would however require the support of the Greens opposition party, because of their weight in the upper house. But for now, they are opposed.

Among conservatives, another idea has been circulating: to cut or scrap an allowance paid to each migrant of 143 euros ($155) a month, which one lawmaker argued is "the equivalent of a month's salary in Serbia".

The proposal was quickly rejected by the Social Democrats (SPD), who govern in coalition with the conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel. The party nevertheless backs new restrictions.

"If I was a father from Kosovo, I would also try to get to Germany," acknowledged a regional SPD minister, Ralf Jaeger.

"But we must still say very quickly to these people that they have no chance to stay with us."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd