Germany > Overview

last update: February 2016

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.

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. This lead to a few changes, especially concerning accommodation (the first weeks and months especially people have to stay in first reception centers that are very often overcrowded) and the duration of asylum procedures that varies a lot depending of the country of origin.

There is an ongoing dynamic of law-enforcements creating more difficulties – but in the same time these stricter rules are often only slowly implemented or already overrun by the reality of struggles. To give you an example: in summer 2015 the German government decided to enforce the restrictions against people who are threatened by Dublin-deportation and implemented harsher detention laws. Only weeks later the German borders opened after the March of Hope by refugees started from Budapest train station. The Dublin-system did not function since then for most of those who crossed the Balkanroute.

Police controls at the borders mainly to Austria are re-implemented again since September 2015, and more controls inside the country are quite common on trains and in stations and inner cities. But after applying for asylum for Germany (not for other countries!) and getting registered people usually should be sent to another place of first asylum registration. And 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 several weeks or even up to months in the first reception centres, often in very difficult situations, in gyms or even tents with not enough privacy and various problems, before being sent to the final camps and accommodations. Most asylum seekers have to live in camps during the asylum procedure, often in isolated places, and without the right to work in the first 3 months and on minimum benefits (i.e. benefits in kind like food packages, or benefit money).

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. So far there is a general (temporary) deportation stop to Greece (that means no deportation to Greece because of the fingerprints) but not to any other EU-countries. Nevertheless there are many ways to avoid a deportation under Dublin and only a small percentage of people is finally deported. Nevertheless it is very important to inform yourself and to prepare. Useful information on How to stop a Dublin-deportation can be found here.

The duration of an asylum procedure is incalculable. Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes even 1 or 2 years. For some groups of refugees (coming from war zones or dictatorships) the chance to get full asylum or at least subsidiary protection status 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. 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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