Access to Asylum: Laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
However, for many applicants the process was protracted. In March the Federal Administrative Court upheld a lower court ruling that revoked asylum of an imam from Egypt. The imam came to the country and applied for asylum in 1999. In 2006 the Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees revoked his asylum status on the grounds that he was preaching sermons against “nonbelievers” and had stated that “God would like to break the backs of the Jews, Christians, and their supporters.” They also learned that he had previous ties to the extremist Islamic organization Al-Jihad Al-Islami, about which he had not informed the authorities in his asylum application.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country adheres to the EU’s “Dublin II regulation,” according to which authorities may turn back or deport individuals who attempt to enter the country through a “safe country of transit,” i.e., a member state of the EU or a country adhering to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Several NGOs questioned this regulation. In January 2011 authorities suspended until January 2013 its application in the case of asylum seekers who passed through Greece. According to the Interior Ministry, there is no blanket denial of asylum to applicants from safe countries of origin, and all have an opportunity to appeal. If the applicant comes from a safe country of origin, appealing a denial of asylum will not prevent authorities from returning the applicant to his country of origin before a court issues a decision on the appeal. Refugee organizations, including the UNHCR, criticized this provision. However, an applicant may prevent an early return by filing an urgent motion with the competent court.
The Stuttgart Administrative Court ruled in July that authorities could not use the Dublin II regulation to send a family of five asylum seekers fleeing Syria back to Italy because they would be exposed to “humiliating and degrading” treatment in that country. The family had fled Syria via Greece and Italy before applying for asylum in Germany.
Refoulement: The government generally provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Reports of deportations of Roma and others to Kosovo continued, and human rights organizations questioned whether an agreement with Kosovo provided adequate safeguards for failed asylum seekers who were repatriated there. The federal government considered the security situation for returnees in Kosovo as stable, including for members of the Romani minority.
On October 24, the government unveiled a memorial in Berlin to the Romani victims of the Nazi regime’s genocide against the Roma/Sinti. On November 14, the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament unanimously voted to designate Roma and Sinti as protected national minorities, the first federal state to take such a step. This action gives Roma and Sinti the same constitutional rights to protection and support that the Danish and Frisian minorities enjoy in that state.
Refugee Abuse: Human rights organizations continued to criticize the “fast procedure” at the Frankfurt airport, under which the Federal Office for Migration reaches a decision on asylum applications within two days and does not permit asylum seekers legal entry to the country. Authorities maintained that they applied this procedure only to persons coming from safe countries of origin. The NGO Caritas requested that officials allow refugees to enter before applying for asylum, emphasizing that at least children and “traumatized” refugees should be granted the right to leave the airport. In 2011authorities placed approximately 1,121 refugees in temporary housing in the airport; 688 applied for asylum via the fast procedure rather than be returned immediately to their countries of origin without an asylum interview. NGOs have also called for ending the current policy that requires asylum seekers and refugees who are still awaiting recognition/acknowledgement of their applications to remain in locations designated by authorities. (In most states asylum seekers can temporarily travel within that state. In some states movement is limited to one or several districts. Bremen and Niedersachsen have expanded movement to include neighboring states.)
Access to Basic Services: In May the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights issued a report that described the inadequacies of social benefits available to asylum seekers, noting that they had to live in overcrowded quarters and received only emergency medical care. According to the Ministry of Labor, asylum seekers waiting for recognition are entitled to medical treatment, including medicines and bandage material needed to cure or ease illness. Once recognized as a refugee or eligible for asylum, they are covered under the respective regulations of the German health insurance system.
On July 18, the Constitutional Court ruled that social benefits for asylum seekers must be equal to those of citizens or other permanent residents. The ruling followed the March suicide of an Iranian asylum seeker in an accommodation in Wuerzburg, Bavaria. The suicide triggered several protests in that city by Iranian asylum seekers, joined by refugees and other sympathizers, who expressed concern about the protracted asylum process which prolonged their uncertainty. They demanded that the state recognize them as “political refugees” and improve living conditions for asylum seekers. The protests continued for more than 150 days and included a 50-day hunger strike. In June, dissatisfied with the lack of response, several protesters stitched up their mouths. Both the Wuerzburg Administrative Court and the Munich Administrative Court rejected efforts by the city to disband the protests. Similar protests followed in other cities, including in the Bavarian cities of Bamberg, Nuremberg, Passau, and Regensburg.
Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement from third countries and facilitated local integration (including naturalization), particularly of refuges in protracted situations. The government assisted the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homes.
Temporary Protection: During the year authorities granted a number of individuals subsidiary protection status (individuals who do not meet the criteria of the refugee convention but need protection for other reasons, for example, because they faced the death penalty, torture, or risks related to armed conflict in their home countries).