An overview about the conditions for refugees and non-EU-migrants in Germany.

Last update : December 2019

Usually refugees or non-EU migrants are able to obtain temporary or permanent residence in Germany only by applying for asylum or through marriage. It’s more or less impossible – except for a few highly qualified experts and specialists – to get papers concluding a labour contract.

Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

Already since 2014 but with another peak point after the incredible “summer of migration” in October 2015 many more people than before applied for asylum in Germany. In the following years a lot of changes followed, especially concerning accommodation (newcomers have to stay in first reception centres for much longer time, in the worst case up to 18 months from 2019 on). Asylum procedures were speeded up and interviews are taken within the first few days, this means you have to get prepared already before you enter the procedure. The first decision in the asylum procedure happens for nearly everyone in the period spent in first reception camps.

There is an ongoing dynamic of law-enforcements creating more difficulties – and while in 2015 and 2016 these stricter rules were only slowly implemented or even overrun by the reality of struggles today it seems more and more difficult to resist. Most law-enforcements are made to speed up deportations. Nevertheless thousands of deportations still fail – because people resist or hide and also because pilots refuse to transport people against their will.

Police controls at the borders mainly to Austria are re-implemented and controls inside the country are quite common on trains, in train-stations and inner cities. Nevertheless probably tens of thousands of undocumented migrants live and work, mainly with the support of their communities, in big cities.

Assistance is also given by a lot of medical help projects or other advice centres/services run by antiracist groups, NGOs or unions, and by self-organised groups of migrants. Most of these projects are open for documented as well as for undocumented migrants. You can find a list of contacts [here].

Everyone without residence permit who is apprehended by the police (at the borders or inside the country) has the right to apply for asylum. Usually s/he should not be arrested or detained for a longer time. Asylum applications have to be directed to reception centres; usually the police will give you the address where to find the next reception centre when you tell them you want to apply for asylum.

There is no guarantee that you can remain in the place/city of the asylum application as the allocation of accommodation is dependent on a Germany-wide distribution system. In the moment many people have to stay for months in the first reception centres, often in very difficult situations, in places where daily (Dublin-)deportation-attempts happen, before being finally transferred to another camp or accommodation. Most asylum seekers have to live in camps during the asylum procedure, often in isolated places, and without the right to work at least for the first 3 months and for the whole time they spent in the first reception (up to 18 months) and on minimum benefits.

If you have given your fingerprints in another EU-country before you came to Germany, you might get threatened to be deported back. This is based on the so-called Dublin-regulation. Nevertheless there are many ways to avoid a deportation under Dublin. Nevertheless it is very important to inform yourself and to be prepared. Useful information on how to stop a Dublin-deportation can be found [here].

The duration of an asylum procedure is incalculable. For some groups of refugees (coming from war zones or dictatorships) the chance to get refugee recognition, subsidiary protection or at least national subsidiary protection (Abschiebeverbot) is not too bad, but of course it depends on the individual case and the preparation! The first asylum interview is crucial for the whole procedure, and should be prepared very well. Some useful guides for the asylum procedure you may find [here]. You have to prepare before applying for asylum, because the interviews will already happen within the first days. A lawyer has to be paid by the asylum seeker him- or herself.

Refugees and migrants who, for one reason or other, cannot be deported will get the very precarious status of toleration (Duldung). Regularisation processes in Germany have been limited to particular groups with many years of toleration. No legalisation of undocumented migrants has ever taken place.

The detention and [deportation] system is well organised, the German bureaucracy puts a lot of energy into trying to kick refugees and migrants out of the country, not avoiding any costs, for example by utilizing charter deportation flights. Never trust the foreigners’ offices (Ausländerbehörde), better to be escorted by friends or supporters, if the status is not safe!

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