Friday, February 26, 2016

German parliament passes stricter asylum laws

The Bundestag, or lower house of the German parliament, passed on Thursday a package of new regulations to tighten asylum rules in an effort to deal with an unprecedented influx of refugees.

The measures were passed by a vote of 429-147, with four parliamentarians abstaining.

The new legislation, also called Asylum Package II, is intended to speed up asylum procedures, among other things making it easier to deport people whose claim to asylum is not recognized by the German government.

It foresees the setting-up of special registration centers across Germany in which asylum applications by certain groups of asylum seekers would be processed within three weeks. The establishment of special centers is aimed at returning applicants, who are rejected asylum, promptly back to their home countries.

Those affected by this law would be people from safe countries of origin, those with re-entry restrictions or who submit an application again, as well as asylum seekers who do not cooperate during the asylum procedures by, for example, deceiving about their identity or refusing the taking of fingerprints.

  • Asylum seekers, who have only limited protection under German law because they are not considered to be "personally persecuted," will have to wait two years before they can have family members join them in Germany, according to the new legislation. This will also affect minors wanting to be reunited with their parents.

The measure is among those that met with the most severe criticism from opposition parties during a parliamentary debate on Thursday before the vote. Green Party fraction leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt said the regulation was "irresponsible," criticizing the government of separating families.

Aydan Oezoguz, Integration Commissioner of the German government, however, defended the policy by noting that the suspension of family reunification affected only a "small group" of refugees. Last year, Oezoguz said, only 1,700 refugees in Germany have received the status of limited protection.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's proposal to have refugees contribute to their language and integration courses was adopted into the package, which would witness refugees opt into a 10-euro (11.03 U.S. dollar) deduction from their monthly assistance to support their classes.

The package also includes stricter rules concerning asylum seekers who have been rejected asylum but are still allowed to stay in Germany because of diseases. In the future, only those who can prove a "very serious disease" by showing stricter medical certificates would be excluded from deportations.

Besides, the new legislation is intended to provide a securer residence status for people who are having a vocational training. It guarantees that they can complete the training and work for two years in Germany after conclusion of the training without worries about their residency.

In addition, the Bundestag decided on Thursday to declare Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as safe countries of origin, effectively providing German immigration authorities the ability to reject asylum applications from those countries' citizens if there is insufficient evidence of persecution or targeted harm.

It also passed rules to lower hurdles for the expulsion of convicted foreigners -- a key measure proposed after the sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne that were blamed largely on foreigners.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under increased criticism from allied and opposition lawmakers for her open-door policy towards refugees following an unprecedented influx of more than 1 million asylum seekers in 2015.

In response to the new arrivals from the Middle East and Africa, Merkel and cabinet members approved Asylum Package I in October last year.

After weeks of contention over issues such as family reunification, leaders of Germany's ruling coalition finally struck a compromise deal on Asylum Package II in January.
  [Xinhua -]

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