The Bundestag (German parliament) passed the controversial package on asylum rules, which human rights organizations and opposition parties called an assault on fundamental rights for those seeking protection.
The German government in recent months has brought forward a number of new rules to make deportations easier. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière defended the new package, and said it would be the “conclusion of sharpening asylum laws for this legislative period.”
Under the law, asylum seekers who do not receive permission to stay in the country and do not leave Germany voluntarily, as well as those who give false information about their identities, will be limited in their freedom of movement. Those deemed to have a small chance of being granted permission to stay may be obligated to remain inside their immigration facility until the end of their asylum process.
The maximum amount of time someone can spend in detention pending deportation was extended from four to ten days. For those considered to be potentially dangerous who are supposed to be deported, their detention will also be extended, and they will be monitored through electronic ankle bracelets.
This measure is in direct reaction to the Berlin terror attack in December. The perpetrator, Anis Amri, had his asylum application rejected, and authorities had also considered him to be potentially dangerous, but officials failed to get official documents from Tunisia to deport him until after the attack.
One of the most controversial measures under the package gives the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) the ability to analyze the cellphone data of asylum seekers who do not have identification papers. This is supposed to help officials clarify their identities.
BAMF would also be allowed to pass on sensitive data from asylum processes – such as medical reports – to other agencies in situations deemed particularly dangerous.
These reforms pertaining to refugees' personal information and cellphones have come under fire in particular. The president of Catholic charity Caritas, Peter Neher, admonished the law for being excessive and one-sided. Neher further said that it placed refugees under general suspicion of identity deception. The Church had previously voiced its misgivings about the measures.
Refugee advocacy group Pro Asyl said that the law transforms Germany into a country that deports rather than takes in refugees. They said that through the “mass reading of cellphone data”, the government wants to create “transparent refugees”.
Amnesty International called the reform a massive infringement upon fundamental rights.
Social welfare organization AWO criticized how the toughening of laws makes those seeking refuge in Germany ever more disenfranchised.
Die Linke (Left Party) interior affairs politician Ulla Jelpke declared the law to be a “mishmash of refugee-hostile smut”. Jelpke further called it “despicable” and disgraceful.
Green party politician Volker Beck said that the scheme was just a ‘flashbang grenade’ to distract from the failures in the Amri case.
But the coalition government parties of the CDU and SPD defended the law. De Maizière (CDU) said that those who do not gain protection status need toughness and to be returned to their home country. This is especially so for “those who deceive, trick and commit crimes”.
“In a nation of law, we cannot tolerate asylum seekers being able to claim different names and nationalities, and not give us any useful information, largely without penalty and as they please, and then hope if they are rejected for asylum, the deportation process fails when trying to obtain replacement passports.”
Stricter limits on bringing over family members
Publishing group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported on Friday that in recent months, the German government has been significantly limiting the number of family members allowed to be brought over to Germany through relatives already in the country.
Since April, Germany has taken in only a maximum of 70 family members of refugees per month, according to a government response to a parliamentary inquiry from Die Linke seen by RND. There should in fact be up to 400 people coming per month, according to the report.
Jelpke accused de Maizière of violating the European Union’s Dublin regulations, which state that refugees have the legal right to family reunification.
“Again the German government is trampling on EU rights and child welfare,” Jelpke said.
The Interior Ministry said the reason for the tighter numbers is the “limited care and accommodation capacity” as well as the “significant logistical coordination efforts of state and federal agencies”.
Jelpke said that this was a “pathetic excuse”, and called on the government to lift the cap on family members.