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Asylum FAQ

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The number of new arrivals at Saxon initial reception centres (IRC) increased sixfold in 2015 compared to the same time the previous year. While a total of 11,786 asylum-seekers came to Saxony in 2014, some 69,900 were registered at Saxony's IRCs between January and December 2015. In 2016, around 14,860 had entered Saxony up to the end of December.

The number of refugees who entered Saxony in December 2016 was 817.

Around 42 percent of the asylum-seekers who arrived in Saxony in 2015 come from Syria. The four most common countries of origin are Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

From 1 January to 31 December 2016, 19 percent of the asylum-seekers arriving in Saxony came from Syria, followed by refugees from Afghanistan (13.3 percent), Iraq (10.6 percent), Libya (7.1 percent) and Russian Federation (6.8 percent).

Herkunftsländer der Asylsuchenden in Sachsen im Jahr 2016 © Sächsische Staatskanzlei

The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) recorded a total of 28,317 initial and follow-up applicants for Saxony in 2015. Between 1 January and 31 December 2016, a total of 24,684 initial and follow-up applications were lodged in Saxony. It is not possible to directly compare arrivals at the initial reception centres, as the actual asylum applications are generally not received by the BAMF until several days or weeks later.

year number
2010 2,305
2011 2,475
2012 3,382
2013 5,645
2014 6,930
2015 28,317
2016 24,684*

* cut-off date: 31/12/2016

Source: BAMF

A total of 1,725 deportations occurred in 2015. Between January and the end of December 2016 about 3,377 asylum-seekers were forced out of the country. Deportation figures for previous years are as follows:

year number
2010 789
2011 929
2012 765
2013 1,230
2014 1,037
2015 1,725
2016 3,377*

*Deportations as per Section 58 Para. 1 and 3 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG), cut-off date: 31/12/2016

Distribution of refugees

The UN Refugee Convention is an important agreement in which the individual nations commit to accepting refugees and the politically persecuted. The EU member states have also established various agreements on asylum procedures. These are generally summarised under the heading of the »Dublin Convention«. An important rule in this agreement states that the first European Community member state entered by an asylum seeker is responsible for conducting the asylum procedure. This rule is not currently observed in full by all EC member states. The onus of refugee intake is presently only distributed among a few countries, including Germany. While Germany is the country taking on the most asylum seekers in terms of absolute numbers, this is not the case in terms of total population. Countries like Sweden and Malta are well ahead of Germany here.

The asylum seekers are spread over the federal states based on the »Königstein Key«, which takes into account population numbers and economic strength. The »Königstein Key« is established each year based on the states' tax revenue and populations. In 2016, Saxony thus received approx. 5.1% of the total asylum seekers.

Königstein Key: more information about the distribution of asylum seekers in the individual federal states can be found on the BAMF webpage.

Königsteiner Schlüssel 2016 © BAMF

Distribution over the districts and independent municipalities within Saxony is performed using a key calculated based on the respective district's/independent municipality's percentage of Saxony's resident population; the data from 30 June of the previous year is applied. According to this, the following distribution quota was calculated for 2015:

municipalities distribution quota
Chemnitz, Stadt 6,00 %
Erzgebirgskreis 8,66 %
Mittelsachsen 7,75 %
Vogtlandkreis 5,76 %
Zwickau 8,06 %
Dresden, Stadt 13,15 %
Bautzen 7,60 %
Görlitz 6,46 %
Meißen 6,02 %
Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge 6,08 %
Leipzig, Stadt 13,24 %
Leipzig 6,36 %
Nordsachsen 4,87 %

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is the competence centre for migration and integration in Germany. It is responsible for asylum procedures and refugee protection, as well as supporting integration nationwide. Its tasks also include migration research. Further information may be found on the BAMF's website.

The »Königstein Key« establishes the proportion of asylum seekers each federal state must accept. It is re-calculated every year based on the states' tax revenue and populations.

The distribution quotas for 2016 are as follows:

federal state distribution quota
Baden-Württemberg 12,86456 %
Bayern 15,51873 %
Berlin 5,04927 %
Brandenburg 3,06053 %
Bremen 0,95688 %
Hamburg 2,52968 %
Hessen 7,35890 %
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2,02906 %
Niedersachsen 9,32104 %
Nordrhein-Westfalen 21,21010%
Rheinland-Pfalz 4,83710 %
Saarland 1,22173 %
Sachsen 5,08386 %
Sachsen-Anhalt 2,83068 %
Schleswig-Holstein 3,40337 %
Thüringen 2,72451 %

If a refugee from a non-EU country wants to live in Germany, he/she must lodge a so-called "Asylum request". The refugees are then housed at an initial reception centre for a maximum of three months. This is where they are registered and lodge an application for asylum. After this, they are distributed across the municipalities, where they are housed in communal accommodation and apartments.

Initial reception centres only serve non-alcoholic beverages. There is a strict ban on alcohol. Breaches of this ban incur penalties.

Right to asylum and the asylum process

During the asylum process, refugees receive a special residence permit, allowing them to stay in Germany. This permit is valid until a decision has been made on their asylum application.

If the application is approved (in the case of the politically persecuted) or a person is granted refugee protection, he/she receives a residence permit to remain in Germany for three years. Once this has expired, the person will receive a permanent residence permit, insofar as this is not revoked.

If subsidiary protection is granted, a residence permit for Germany is issued for one year, and may be further extended.

Every asylum application is assessed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) based on the German Asylum Procedure Act (AsylVerfG). The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decides on four types of protection during the asylum process: Asylum entitlement, Refugee protection, Subsidiary protection and Deportation ban.
During the asylum process, refugees receive a special residence permit, allowing them to stay in Germany. This permit is valid until a decision has been made on their asylum application.

(1) Asylum entitlement

In accordance with Article 16a of the German Constitution, the politically persecuted are entitled to asylum. Persecution is deemed political if, based on an individual’s political convictions, religious beliefs or lacking characteristics which result in otherness, it systematically infringes on said individual’s rights to such an extent that he/she is segregated from the general framework of peace existing within a united state. The asylum entitlement serves to protect human dignity in a more comprehensive sense. Those persons entering Germany through a safe third country (EU countries, Norway, Switzerland) are not recognised as being entitled to asylum. In these cases, the asylum procedure must be carried out in these countries.

(2) Refugee protection

Refugee protection is issued to persons who, for urgent humanitarian reasons under international law, or to protect Germany’s political interests, are granted residence in this country. They include Syrians seeking protection who, based on a federal or state order, are allowed to enter Germany, where they are immediately issued a residence permit.

(3) Subsidiary protection

Anyone who has provided solid reasons to assume that they are under serious threat in their homeland, and cannot or, due to the threat, do not wish to seek protection from their home country, is entitled to subsidiary protection. Serious threats include imposition or enforcement of the death penalty, torture, random acts of violence during international or civil armed conflict.

(4) Deportation ban

A deportation ban takes effect if deportation to the destination country constitutes a breach of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, or if there is a significant and concrete danger to life, limb or freedom in the destination country.

The states (initial reception) and municipalities are responsible for housing, caring for and looking after the asylum seekers during their asylum process.

The actual asylum procedure is performed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which currently has three branches in Saxony. These are located at the initial reception centres in Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig. The necessary steps are taken here for the asylum seekers housed in Saxony.

The asylum process determines whether an asylum seeker is to be granted asylum, refugee protection or subsidiary protection, or whether his/her asylum application is to be rejected. It is carried out by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which is also responsible for asylum applications and personal consultations. An overall assessment, taking into account all relevant information, determines whether the asylum seeker is granted asylum, refugee protection or subsidiary protection, or whether the asylum application is to be rejected.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decides on four types of protection in the asylum process: Asylum entitlement, Refugee protection, Subsidiary protection and Deportation ban. Depending on the type of protection, these persons receive a temporary residence permit lasting one to three years, with the possibility of extension or conversion into permanent residency.

Asylum request

The foreigner first registers as an asylum seeker, either directly at the German border crossing or once in Germany. Due to the high number of refugees, asylum applications are currently only lodged with the initial reception centre at the BAMF’s branch office after approx. one to three months. By expressing his/her request for asylum, the foreigner is granted temporary residence in Germany.

Distribution

The affected person is then allocated to the authority responsible for initial reception. Distribution across the individual German states is based on the “Königstein Key”.

The application process

Asylum applications are lodged with a BAMF office assigned to the initial reception centre. The applicant must appear in person. Once the application has been lodged, the refugees receive an official certification in the form of a residence permit. For the first three months of their stay in Germany, the residence permit is limited to the district of the issuing authority. This means asylum seekers may not leave the district in which the allocated initial reception centre is located. Only after three months are they permitted to move throughout Germany, insofar as the Bureau for Foreigners has not ordered any territorial restrictions (§ 59b German Asylum Procedure Act, AsylVfG).

Personal consultation

The asylum seeker describes his/her persecution at a consultation, which forms the basis for deciding whether or not asylum can be granted. The fate of the individual is always crucial here.

Decision

The decision on the asylum application is advised to the applicant in writing. It contains reasons and instructions on legal remedies.

Legal remedies

Asylum-seekers are entitled to appeal a rejection by the BAMF through the administrative courts. The competent administrative court, the period for filing suits, and any necessary application for temporary legal protection can be found in the legal remedy information enclosed with the notice. The legal remedy information is also provided in a language spoken fluently by the asylum-seeker. No legal defence before the administrative court is required.

Decisions made by the administrative court during the temporary legal protection proceedings, and verdicts in which the action is rejected as clearly prohibited or unjustified, cannot be appealed. In all other cases, the higher administrative court may only be summoned if this has been permitted by the higher administrative court itself at the request of the asylum-seeker or BAMF due to fundamental importance, deviation from the jurisdiction of higher-ranking courts, or serious procedural error. The higher administrative court or, upon an appeal by the asylum-seeker or BAMF, the federal administrative court can permit a review for comparable reasons. The asylum-seeker must be represented by a lawyer before the higher administrative court or federal administrative court.

Ablauf Asylverfahren © Sächsische Staatskanzlei

In the event the asylum application is approved, the asylum seeker receives a three-year German residence permit. After three years, a permanent residence permit is issued if the BAMF has advised the Bureau for Foreigners that the asylum entitlement is not to be revoked or retracted.

In the event no asylum is granted, the affected person will be sent a written notice of rejection and extradition, i.e. he/she will be advised to leave Germany by a certain date. He/she will also be warned that he/she will be deported if he/she does not voluntarily leave the country by the set deadline (§ 34 German Asylum Procedure Act, AsylVfG).

»Deportation« means that a foreigner is taken out of the country by means of (police) coercion. The individual states are responsible for this. In the Free State of Saxony, this is the Central Bureau for Foreigners at the Saxon Central Office, with the involvement of the police service and tactical response units.

»Subject to immediate extradition« means a foreigner is not entitled to remain in Germany, and must leave the country. In this case, he/she is immediately asked to return home of his/her own free will. If he/she does not comply with this, he/she is deported.

Some of those »subject to immediate extradition« cannot be deported by a certain time. In this case, they are deported as soon as the reasons preventing deportation have been eliminated.

Reasons preventing deportation include:

  • A new passport needs to be procured, as the existing document is expired or lost.
  • The affected persons are in hiding.
  • The person due to be deported is unfit to travel.
  • The affected person or a member of his/her family is ill.
  • Other family members are still undergoing an asylum procedure.
  • There is a stop on deportations for the relevant country of origin.

According to the German Residency Act, exceptional leave to remain means that deportation of a foreigner subject to extradition has been officially suspended, though not lifted. The affected person is not deported during the period of exceptional leave to remain.

Forced repatriations by the Saxon Central Office only apply to rejected asylum seekers who do not leave the country voluntarily. Once the BAMF decision becomes enforceable or legally valid, an assessment is conducted to establish any reasons preventing repatriation (e.g. inability to travel, missing paperwork), and efforts are made to eliminate these. Once these have been eliminated, the person is deported.

Re-entry can only be prevented in places where personal checks are conducted, which usually happens at the outer borders of the Schengen Area.

Forced repatriation does, however, ban the affected persons from entering and staying in Germany, and this is recorded in the Central Register for Foreigners. Authorities such as the federal and state police can access this register to check any personal details. Deported persons may also be recorded in the identification databases of the German police or for the entire Schengen Area to prevent entry.

Ongoing main proceedings before the administrative courts, which relate to recognising a person as an asylum-seeker or refugee, do not prevent deportation in the common cases of prohibited or clearly unjustified asylum applications - e.g. for asylum-seekers from safe countries of origin. In these cases, the asylum-seeker must, in order to prevent deportation, lodge an expedited application within a week of the notice being issued. The administrative court will then generally decide on this within a week. If the application is rejected, the asylum-seeker may be deported. In all other cases, deportations cannot be made until the administrative court makes its decision in the main proceedings.

A foreigner against whom public action is being taken, or for whom preliminary criminal proceedings have been initiated, may only be deported in consultation with the relevant public prosecution service. This consultation is not required if the interest in criminal prosecution is only minor. This is deemed to be the case for breaches of the German Residence Act and minor concomitant offences. The Chief Public Prosecutor for the state of Saxony has also generally consented to deportation in the event of certain "petty" crimes, such as crimes against property, resulting in little damage or injury, with no considerable consequences for the victim. In such cases, foreigners may be deported despite ongoing criminal proceedings.

The state has greater interest in criminal prosecution for serious offences. In these instances, the public prosecution service must check whether the criminal proceedings must be undertaken or whether deportation can occur.

Persons requiring deportation may be detained in various ways (e.g. prison sentences or remand). Deportation does not generally occur while the person is being remanded in custody, as the criminal proceedings cannot otherwise be completed. Prison sentence enforcement often results in prisoners being deported as per Section 456a of the German Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO). In doing so, the public prosecution service refrains from further enforcing imprisonment, so that deportation can occur if the other necessary (immigration) requirements have been met by the Foreigners' Bureau.

Rights & duties of refugees and asylum seekers

The 'arrival certificate' ('Ankunftsnachweis') is a national document for refugees certifying that the person concerned has been registered with their local Foreigners' Bureau. It is issued by the country's relevant reception centres and the BAMF's branches immediately after ID procedures are complete.

The certificate contains personal, identity and contact details like the name, date of birth, fingerprints and place of residence, along with an identification number. Coupled with this is information on schooling and professional qualifications, in order to enable efficient integration and work placement.
The personal details are also stored in a central system, and may be retrieved by institutions such as the police, registration authorities and the Federal Employment Agency.

The states/municipalities provide the asylum seekers with what they need for daily life:

  • Basic services for food, accommodation, heating, clothing, healthcare and personal hygiene, and household consumables,
  • An allowance for personal everyday needs,
  • Benefits in the event of illness, pregnancy or birth,
  • In special circumstances, additional benefits depending on the individual situation.

Single refugees receive 359 Euros a month if housed outside reception centres. The amount consists of:

  • The necessary 216 Euros (food, clothing, healthcare, consumables),
  • A cash benefit of 143 Euros.

Costs for housing, heating and personal belongings are also taken care of.

Refugee children are entitled to attend day-care facilities, and must comply with Germany's compulsory schooling requirements if they are legally German residents or their permanent place of residence is in Germany based on an exceptional leave to remain under immigration law. These requirements are generally deemed as being met if a residence permit has been issued as part of the asylum procedure (i.e. an asylum application has been lodged), the family has left the initial reception centre, and is being housed in the designated municipality.

Asylum seekers must undergo a medical check when arriving at an initial reception centre. In Saxony, this check is performed by the respective municipal health office.

Irrespective of this, asylum seekers are entitled to emergency care for 15 months. That means the health services are limited to acute care and pain therapy according to § 4 of the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (AsylbLG). This also includes immunisations and medically prescribed preventive examinations. § 6 of the AsylbLG similarly stipulates that additional services may be granted if this is essential for protecting health, or if required due to children's special needs. Pregnancy treatments and obstetrics are provided regardless of acute conditions or pain.

In order to be entitled to the services under the AsylbLG, asylum seekers need a treatment certificate issued to them by the initial reception centre or the competent housing authority/social welfare office.

Once the 15-month period has expired, the asylum seekers are entitled to health services as per the scope of the statutory health insurance (§ 2 Paragraph 1 AsylbLG). Treatments are paid for by the statutory health funds as per § 264 Paragraph 2 of Volume V of the German Social Code (SGB V). The expenses are then reimbursed to the legal health funds by the social welfare sponsors (§ 264 Para. 7 SGB V).

Further information on healthcare

Unaccompanied, under-age foreigners are children who are in Germany without their parents. The legislators assume that these children generally require the specific protection of the Youth Welfare Office. As the children have no one to look after them, the Youth Welfare Office must appoint a guardian or carer as quickly as possible, and arrange for the children, who are often physically and mentally distressed, to receive initial care, social aid and any necessary therapy. In technical jargon, this is known as an entitlement to be taken into the Youth Welfare Office's custody, which sees the state take over the parents' duties of care. Places for primary care (clearing points) and then necessary homes or other types of accommodation are therefore required for the children, and further aid granted.

Until now, the children have been taken into custody in the place where they were picked up, meaning states like Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia have a lot. That's why the other states have provided financial support. Saxony has paid an average of 8.5 million Euros over the last few years.

This practice will change on 1/1/2016. Children without parents will be distributed over the states based on the Königstein Key, meaning Saxony will be taking a lot more into custody. Current predictions are around 1,500 children.

Taxis are used to transport ill asylum-seekers to medical specialists, and, if a patient transport certificate is provided, also back to the accommodation facility. It is imperative to adhere to times here, so as to avoid time wastage for doctors and interpreters. Taxis are also used to transport asylum-seekers to appointments with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

General rules on employment

Asylum seekers and refugees are not allowed to work during the first three months of their stay in Germany.

Once the asylum procedure is underway, asylum seekers may work in accordance with the requirements of § 61 Para. 2 of the German Asylum Procedure Act (AsylVfG). That means: They may hold down employment if the Federal Employment Agency has consented to this, or if this is permitted without the Federal Employment Agency's consent. In this context, the Federal Employment Agency's Foreign and Specialist Recruitment Headquarters (ZAV) conduct a so-called precedence assessment (Vorrangprüfung)* to check, based on the job market situation, whether the position can be filled by a German or EU citizen.

This means: The Foreigners' Bureau may permit employment if the Employment Agency (BA) has consented to this or the employment does not require the BA's consent. In this context, the International Placement Services (ZAV) run by the BA conducts a priority check*, in which the job market situation is assessed to determine whether the relevant position can be filled by a German or EU citizen.

For asylum-seekers and foreigners with special exemption to remain, this priority check for employment within the state of Saxony is waived between August 2016 and August 2019.

A change in status from asylum-seeker to foreigner with special exemption to remain does not result in extra waiting time to access the job market. For persons with special exemption to remain, however, the grounds for denying approval as per Section 60a Para. 6 of the German Residency Act (AuftenthG) must always be noted in relation to employment permits. These grounds exist if the foreigner has travelled to Germany in order to obtain benefits under the Asylum-seekers Benefits Act, or measures to terminate residency cannot be enforced for reasons caused by the foreigner themselves (particularly in the case of identity or nationality fraud, or false information), or the foreigner is from a safe country as defined by Section 29a of the German Asylum Act and lodged their application for asylum after 31/8/2015.

Legitimate asylum-seekers and recognised refugees have an unconditional employment permit, and can thus work or undertake training. They do not require the consent of the Foreigners' Bureau or the Federal Employment Agency.

Persons for whom the BAMF has established a deportation ban (Section 60 Para. 5 and & AufenthG) may be issued with an employment permit by the Foreigners' Bureau without the consent of the Federal Employment Agency.


*The priority check rule has been suspended for a period of three years for certain jobs by virtue of the Integration Act ordinance in order to give the asylum-seekers faster access to the German job market.

After three months, asylum seekers are allowed to undertake vocational training in a state-accredited or equivalent recognised trade without the consent of the Federal Employment Agency.

The following must be noted:

  • Academic vocational training is always legally permitted for asylum seekers and persons with exceptional leave to remain, and does not require approval from the Bureau for Foreigners.
  • Practical vocational training (dual system) is open to asylum seekers from the fourth month onwards, and to persons with exceptional leave to remain once this leave as been granted, insofar as they are not banned from working, and the Bureau for Foreigners allows this.
  • A work permit must be applied for from the Bureau for Foreigners for each specific training position.
  • Based on the legal changes which took effect on 1 August 2015, the Bureau for Foreigners can initially grant exceptional leave to remain for qualified vocational training for one year. If the training continues, and is expected to be completed within a reasonable time frame, the Bureau for Foreigners shall extend the exceptional leave to remain by one year at a time. This requires that the trainee start the qualified vocational training before turning 21, and not be from a safe country of origin.

Recognised refugees holding residence permits for humanitarian, political or international-law reasons may undertake training.

Recognised refugees holding a residence permit for humanitarian, political or international-law reasons have unrestricted access to the job market, and may thus also complete internships.

Asylum seekers holding temporary residence permits, and people with exceptional leave to remain, may complete internships, although the term "internship" is used to denote a variety of activities with very different focuses. The residence assessment must therefore always be performed on a case-by-case basis. The possible scenarios and associated admission requirements are described in the "Practicums and Internships for asylum seekers and persons granted exceptional leave to remain" handout issued by the Federal Employment Agency.

Asylum seekers are immediately free to utilise »work opportunities« (»Arbeitsgelegenheiten«), which do not involve any work contracts under labour law, nor any employment contracts in terms of statutory health and pension insurance.

The brochure entitled »Guidelines for providing work opportunities in the Free State of Saxony«, issued by the Saxon Ministry for the Interior in July 2015, contains a brief overview of this subject.

Asylum seekers and persons with exceptional leave to remain, who have been in the country for three months, have access to virtually all unemployment insurance services (recruitment support, advanced vocational training, involvement in working life), and may receive assistance from the employment agencies insofar as they meet the respective requirements in each case.

Recognised refugees holding residence permits are attended to and assisted at the job centres (not the employment agencies), and have unlimited access to the work integration services as per §§ 16 ff. of Volume II of the German Social Code.

The statutory minimum wage applies to all workers over 18. There is no special rule for refugees.

Whether or not refugees are allowed to start up their own businesses depends on their residence status.

They cannot start up a business while an asylum procedure is in progress. The same applies to people who have simply been granted exceptional leave to remain.

Recognised asylum seekers and refugees are unconditionally allowed to start up their own businesses and use relevant subsidy programmes.

In the event of a different residence status (e.g. a residence permit for family reasons or another purpose), it is advisable to contact the Bureau for Foreigners, which may be able to issue a permit to start up a business.

Recognition of qualifications

The Saxon Education Agency is responsible for recognising school certificates. The equivalence of educational qualifications obtained abroad may be assessed by way of an individual evaluation upon request.

Professional qualifications obtained abroad may be recognised in Saxony. This is done by the competent centre or authority for a specific occupational group. The pre-requisite for this is that the applicant have their permanent place of residence in the Free State of Saxony.

Regarding the recognition of academic qualifications, a distinction is made between recognising an academic degree (studies already completed) and studies/performances for further studies and the recognition of university eligibility.

The Saxon State Ministry of Science and Art is responsible for recognising academic degrees. These are assessed by the Centre for Foreign Education (ZAB).

The respective university is responsible for recognising studies and exam performances entitling admission for further studies at a German university.

Said university is also responsible for recognising university eligibility acquired abroad. This may be in the form of a qualification equivalent to the German Abitur (school-leaving examination), which enables studies at a university.

Information for businesses

The »Work permit process« hotline (tel. 0228 713-2000) set up by the Federal Employment Agency is an important point of contact for businesses, providing information on all matters relating to employing refugees. Employers wanting to employ foreigners also receive assistance from the employer services offered by their local employment agencies.

Employers may receive financial support as part of the entry qualification (EQ) for traineeship preparation. Employers can also be assisted through wage allowances (e.g. integration allowances).

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