Summary of the national legislation on refugees
The wave of refugees, also known as the “refugees’ crisis”, which has been a main issue in the European political discourse, is mainly the result of the numerous civil wars taking place in Africa and especially in the Middle East. Germany is the European country which has taken in the most refugees and one of the few that still conducts a policy of “open borders”. More than one Million refugees were registered in Germany in 2015, yet not even half of them managed to apply for asylum since the process takes up much time and the number of asylum seekers is overwhelming for the German authorities.
The right to asylum enjoys constitutional status in Germany.
Political persecutees are afforded asylum in Germany in accordance with Article 16a of the Basic Law (GG) of the Federal Republic of Germany.
As in many other countries, the right to asylum is guaranteed in Germany not only on the basis of the obligation under international law arising from the Geneva Convention on Refugees of 1951, but also has constitutional status as a fundamental right. It is the only fundamental right that is only accorded to foreign nationals.
Persecution is considered to be political if it causes specific violations of rights to the individual – in connection with his/her political convictions, choice of religious belief or intangible characteristics that mark him/her out as being different – which, due to their intensity, exclude that person from the general peace framework of the state unit. The right to asylum serves to protect human dignity in a more comprehensive sense.
Not every negative measure carried out by the state represents persecution relevant to asylum – even if it is connected to one of the personal characteristics specified. It must involve a specific violation of a legally-protected interest and be of such intensity that it excludes the affected person from society. Finally, it must involve a measure that is so serious that it violates human dignity and goes beyond what the population of the state in question would otherwise consider to be generally acceptable.
In principle, only state persecution is taken into consideration, i.e. persecution that is perpetrated by the State. Exceptions apply if non-state persecution can be attributed to the State or if the non-state persecutor is representing the State (quasi-state persecution).
General emergency situations such as poverty, civil wars, natural disasters or a lack of prospects are therefore ruled out as reasons for granting asylum. The guarantee of subsidiary protection can be considered in certain circumstances.
Recognition as being entitled to asylum is excluded in the event of entry to Germany via a safe third country. This also applies in cases where a return to that third country is not possible, such as where the country is not specifically known due to a lack of corresponding information from the asylum applicant.
*Source: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees – http://www.bamf.de/EN/Migration/AsylFluechtlinge/Asylrecht/asylrecht-node.html
Refugee life in Germany
According to the United Nations, the biggest source of refugees fleeing the Middle East, comes from Syria where domestic life has been tethered and social conditions marred to such an extent that leaving their homeland for a warm and accepting Europe seems the best available option. And, must it be shared, the role of Germany, which is shouldering a responsibility of housing as many as hundreds of thousands of refugees, becomes all the more critical.
Around, 4 million of them from Syria have fled the Middle East while 7 million have been marred by the struggle internally.
But, the response of Germany since the beginning has been catering to the chaos by way of providing the displaced a place they can call home. Enabling diversity and inclusion as the constructs of the ideal to assist refugees, the spark ignited by Chancellor Merkel, and her CDU has withered many a storm in accepting persons from a different culture and orientation even as they continue to withstand pressure in the form of ‘discerning’ voices from not so distant quarters. At the same time, Former Minister and Conservative Politician Horst Seehofer(ex- Food, Agriculture Minister), for instance is of the opinion to have irrational exuberance should be stemmed out from the current German current trend of accepting refugees with open arms.
Yet, despite media’s biased takes and numerable criticisms of Germany’s acceptance of refugees, especially from Syria, where quite a few have been reported to have links with Sunni Militant Organizations, Germany has displayed warmth and character in its liberal inclusion of refugees into its social structure, negating the thinking opted by hardliners.
We look into the life of refugees marked by ground realities and support mechanisms in a country driven by an incessant need to correct the global wrongs, as tainted by terrorism and moral squander.
Alive, Safe and Raring to go
Migrant workers say that the system is struggling to offer newcomers a long term prospect
When we ask too many questions, the Germans often get angry
There are places where there is a genuine lack of interpreters that adds to the communication woes. However, how many interpreters can be provided by the German Government?
In some cases, the migrants also state that they have been waiting for weeks to apply for asylum, but such is the sheer number of refugees coming to Germany
Some refugees are also filing cases against the Berlin State Government for the lack of assistance they feel they’ve been provided whilst settling down upon arrival in Germany
What People are usually entitled to:
Refugees, or people seeking refugee status in European countries, not just Germany are usually entitled to food. And if not, they are entitled to receive money to buy it.
Apart from this, they are also generally entitled to shelter and medical attention. Other general entitlements include schooling for children and access to interpreters and lawyers.
But, above and beyond this basic package, refugees can also claim certain rights and benefits across the European continent, but in Germany, they receive the following:
In lines with the above, the Syrian refugees in particular, according to leading print daily have filed a case against the Berlin State Government
Approximately 1.700.000 refugees have made it to the European continent in the past one year and that’s an enormous figure to boot. But, no talk about the current refugee crisis can be rendered complete without lauding Germany’s chivalry, and compassion in the light of dealing with the biggest undeniable crisis of the post second world war world.
DW; Die Welt: www.welt.de
Euro Activ : www.euroactiv.com
Free meals upon reception
A sum of 143 Euros per month, extended out by German authorities for basic needs.
The amount increases by 73 more Euros after a period of 3 months to 216.
At present, the German Government has agreed to extend the period of reception centers from three months to six. This provides equanimity between reception and cash payments, which can be maintained at lower level for longer.
German Government is also extending a sum of 92 Euros per child, depending upon age.
After completion of a period of 15 months, or once the asylum request is approved for a refugee, he is extended a basic income of 400 Euros per month plus, costs for enabling accommodation and heating.
The legal process
The following preconditions must be met before refugee protection can be afforded:
In accordance with section 3 subs. 1 of the Asylum Procedure Act (AsylVfG), a person is recognised as a refugee if, out of justified fear of persecution because of his/her
he/she is outside the country of origin, and is unable to call on the protection of that country or does not wish to take it up because of this fear.
It does not matter whether the applicant actually has the characteristics on the basis of which they are being persecuted. What matters is that their persecutor believes that they have these characteristics.
This persecution may be perpetrated by the State, by parties or organisations that control the State or considerable parts of the territory of the State (state-like players) or by non-state players, if state or state-like players, including international organisations, are proven to not be able or willing to offer protection from the threat of persecution in that country.
The following count as persecution:
political conviction, or
membership of a specific social group,
Examples of acts that may count as persecution:
acts that are so serious because of their type or repeated nature that they represent a severe violation of basic human rights, in particular rights from which no deviation is permitted in accordance with Article 15 para. 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (in particular Article 3, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)
various measures that in themselves do not represent a serious violation of basic human rights, but, when considered in combination, are so serious that a person is affected by them in a similar way.
Third country nationals and stateless persons may be entitled to subsidiary protection if they cannot be protected either through recognition of refugee status or through the right to asylum. Such individuals are recognised as being entitled to subsidiary protection if they have submitted plausible reasons to presume that they are at risk of serious injury in their country of origin.
Serious injury is considered to be:
using physical or mental force, including sexual violence,
legal, administrative, police and/or judicial measures that as such are discriminatory or are applied in a discriminatory way,
disproportionate or discriminatory prosecution or punishment,
denial of judicial protection, resulting in disproportionate or discriminatory punishment,
acts that are associated with gender or are directed against children.
Prohibition of deportation
An assessment under section 60 subs. 5 and 7 of the Residence Act (AufenthG) can only be considered if protection based on higher-ranking regulations providing protection (refugee protection, right to asylum, subsidiary protection) was turned down.
the imposition or enforcement of the death penalty,
torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or
a substantial concrete danger to the life and limb of a civilian within an international or domestic armed conflict.
In accordance with section 60 subs. 5 of the Residence Act, a foreigner may not be deported if deportation is inadmissible under the terms of the Convention on Human Rights. Section 60 subs. 5 of the Residence Act hence does not contain a separate regulation, but only refers to the Convention in a declaratory manner and to the prohibition of deportation which results from the Convention.
Prohibition of deportation in accordance with section 60 subs. 5 of the Residence Act
Prohibition of deportation in accordance with section 60 subs. 7 of the Residence Act is to be granted if the foreigner faces a substantial concrete danger or an extreme general danger on return to the destination state.
Protection against deportation in accordance with section 60 subs. 7 of the Residence Act is asserted in particular (but not exhaustively) if for instance the danger of a considerable worsening of an existing illness is likely because of inadequate medical treatment in the destination state, or if such treatment is not available at all.
Those wishing to apply for asylum should contact an initial reception facility where their personal data will be recorded. Applicants will receive a temporary residence permit.
Foreign nationals who are seeking protection from persecution in Germany must register as asylum-seekers. To do this, they must first contact an initial reception facility in person. The next step is to make an application for asylum. This takes place in the branch of the Federal Office to which the initial reception facility has been allocated. Applicants must appear in person at the branch office.
Next, the asylum-seeker’s personal data is recorded in the branch office. The data is compared with that of asylum applicants already registered by the Federal Office, and with the Central Register of Foreigners. This procedure helps to establish if an initial application is being made or a subsequent application or possibly even a duplicate application.
Finger prints are taken, and the applicant is also photographed. The exception to this rule are those who have not yet turned 14. The Federal Criminal Police Office then checks the finger prints, which are also compared against other existing records using a system that records finger prints taken throughout Europe. This checks whether an applicant has already made an application for asylum in another EU Member State.
Applicants for asylum may live in the Federal Republic while the asylum process is pending. Once applicants have made their application, they will receive a residence title for specific purposes. This restricts residence to the area in which the initial reception facility that has accepted the asylum applicant is located. This restriction has now been withdrawn in some of the Federal Länder. The Federal Office will inform asylum applicants of the progress of the asylum process and about their rights and responsibilities during the process.
Applications for asylum may only be made in writing in special cases. This affects asylum applicants who have a residence title with a total validity period of more than six months,
who are in prison or other public custody, in hospital, a care institution or a youth welfare institution, or have not yet turned 16 and whose legal representative is not obliged to live in a reception institution.
An application for asylum cannot be made from outside Germany.
Asylum-seekers are allocated to a specific initial aid facility. This “distribution” is based on several criteria and is established with the help of the EASY system.
“Distribution” means that, on the basis of certain criteria, asylum-seekers are allocated to an initial help facility, which is then responsible for them. Before the distribution can begin, the foreign national must register as an asylum-seeker. There are two ways to do this.
Facts on the application process
Applying for asylum at the border or in the country itself
The first possibility is that a foreign national registers as an asylum-seeker on entry into the country. To do this, he contacts the border authorities who will then direct him to the nearest initial reception facility. This does not apply however if he is denied entry, perhaps because he has arrived from a safe third country. The second option is for a foreign national to declare himself as an asylum-seeker once he has entered the country. In this case, too, he will be directed to the nearest initial reception facility.
The EASY distribution system
The “distribution” takes place in the next step, i.e. allocating applicants to the initial reception facility that will be responsible for them. This is done with the aid of the EASY system, which manages distribution throughout the country. If the asylum-seeker is not already registered with the facility responsible for him, he must go to the one allocated to him. He then submits his asylum application in the branch office of the Federal Office allocated to this initial reception facility.
Allocation to an initial reception facility depends on the capacity currently available. Consideration is also given to which branch office of the Federal Office deals with the asylum-seeker’s home country, given that not all the branch offices deal with all countries of origin. In addition, there are acceptance quotas for the individual Federal Länder: These define what percentage of asylum applicants each Federal Land is obliged to take, and are defined according to the “Königstein Formula”. It is calculated each year according to the tax receipts and population numbers of the Länder.
Interview and decision
Asylum applicants give an account of their persecution during an interview. The interview forms the basis for the decision as to whether asylum can be granted. The decision on an asylum application rests on the fate of the individual applicant as a matter of principle.
Anyone applying for asylum is invited to an interview, which is required by law and which they must attend in person. The interview is recorded by camera. A decision-maker from the Federal Office is present, as is an interpreter. The applicant for asylum must give an account of why he/she is being persecuted, and must provide details as to the facts of his/her persecution. If possible, he/she should provide means of evidence. A record of the interview will be produced. The applicant will receive a written copy of the record, having previously been given a verbal translation.
Asylum-seekers are entitled to take legal action through the administrative courts if their application is rejected by the Federal Office. As a matter of principle, the action must be brought within a short period of time. It is usually helpful to enlist the services of a lawyer in such cases. The court then reviews the Federal Office’s decision, and this can take some time.
Overview of the individual levels within the court system (instances) and subsequent legal options:
First instance (court action) – Administrative Court (VG)
Second instance (appeal on points of fact and law -Berufung) – Higher Administrative Court (OVG)/(VGH)
Third instance (appeal on points of law only – Revision) – Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG)
European Court of Justice (ECJ)
Having been through all instances – Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG)
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
*Source: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees – http://www.bamf.de/EN/Migration/AsylFluechtlinge/Asylverfahren/asylverfahren-node.html
Prohibition of deportation in accordance with section 60 subs. 7 of the Residence Act
Description of what happens if they do not receive the refugee status
If the asylum-seeker’s request is rejected, then he or she is given a period in which they have to leave Germany. This is normally a period of one month. In this period of time, it should be possible for the person affected to bid their farewells, deal with various official matters and de-register their children from school. Nevertheless, during this time, the person receives social security payments and is covered by insurance.
After this deadline has passed deportation can occur at any time. The speed of the deportation varies depending on the state. No concrete dates are named, and it is possible that police will start a person’s deportation in the middle of the night. In those instances, not much time is available to pack, or to say goodbye. The 2012 UNICEF study “Silent Harm” showed that this experience can be particularly traumatic for children that have gone to school and who also have to leave friends behind.
Incentive to leave voluntarily
German authorities try to encourage rejected asylum applicants to leave the country voluntarily. In each state, this is done in a different manner. In Hamburg, the city’s authorities have put up a list of typical costs for a voluntary departure.
In this instance, the travel costs for a voluntary departure are carried by the authorities, as are food costs. There are also funds set aside for re-establishing the person in their home country. Exact amounts are not stipulated on the Hamburg website. After being asked by DW, the authorities said that the amounts vary in each case.
For those that are not willing to leave Germany voluntarily, the costs of deportation are often sent to you as a bill. This includes the flight costs and the person may also have to pay for their deportation holding cell before departure, at a cost of around 111 euros ($125) a day.
Those that leave Germany voluntarily are also able to return to the EU or Germany in the future. Migrants that are forcibly deported lose that right.
*Source: Deutsche Welle – http://www.dw.com/en/what-happens-to-rejected-asylum-applicants/a-18748952
Analysis of how the media depicts the refugees in Germany
Firstly an overview of the German media landscape shall be provided. This shall establish the foundation to understand the portrayal of asylum seekers within German media.
Printed press is the oldest medium. In Germany it can be split in three groups: local/regional, national and over-the-counter newspaper. The first type has the widest spread in federal Germany and makes up three-quarters of the daily circulation. There are only a few national newspapers, these have a circulation share of seven percent in subscriptions. Regarded strictly, only the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and “Die Welt” can be regarded as national, even though “Die Süddeutsche Zeitung” is more than just regional, it is predominantly read in Munich and Bavaria. The third type is mainly represented by “Bild” with a daily circulation of 2.9 million units. Due to its sensational topics it can be referred to as a boulevard magazine. 
After 1945, German broadcasting was organized as public service broadcasting under the occupying powers, this in order to avoid misuse for propaganda purposes like in the Third Reich. The intention was to establish broadcasting without government control in six occupying zones as a mean of controlling society. The board committee was recruited out of different groups of society, like unions, political parties or religious communities. The channels were and still are obliged to combine information, education and entertainment. They are financed by fees. Today there are 12 public service broadcasting channels, but there are critiques as well regarding the influence of the State, lack of political diversity, spending of fee revenue and an increasing commercial approach. Only in 1984 private broadcasting was approved and the dual broadcasting system established. 
Due to technological progress online media gained importance next to the common mass media. 
Media usage in Germany
According to a media research conducted by SevenOne, the TV is the most popular medium in Germany reaching 80% of its population on a daily bases. Followed by the radio (66%) and the internet (62,4%). Only about half of the German population reads the newspaper daily. In the age group between 14 and 49 the internet is the medium which is used the most. A research conducted by Germany’s two main national TV stations ARD and ZDF supports these results and offers a more in dept analysis. 
Portrayal of refugees in German media
In 2002 the European Research Center on Migration and Ethnic Relations published an overview of research on racism and cultural diversity in mass media that shall be briefly summarized in this context in order to provide a background about the representation of refugees in German media.
The researchers looked at different literature and studies about right-wing extremism, racism and cultural diversity in German media in the time from 1995 to 2000.
Their research revealed that migrants were frequently associated with negative stereotypes and that media referred to migrants mainly in the context of negative scenarios or conflicts. News reporting was subject to changes, whereas the emphasis was on foreigners in the 1980s, the focus shifted to asylum seekers in the 1990s. The coverage of right-wing extremism is highly dependent on incidences and changes from mitigation to dramatization. German media tends to sensitize its audience to specific themes. The author provides an example of the sharp increase of attacks against asylum seekers till 1991 on the peak of a political and parliamentary debate on asylum. The coverage of those xenophobic attacks later lead to an increased awareness of the asylum issue as a relevant social problem. As a result Germany witnessed a great number of media campaigns against racism and to promote cultural diversity in the 1990s. 
Another part of the research that shall be highlighted here is the reproduction of ethnic and racist prejudice through the media.
The most prevalent theme is the treatment of crime in connection with foreigners. An extensive analysis of press reporting in the late nineties revealed that almost one-fourth of articles about foreigners were related to crime. Those crimes were further portrayed in a more negative way than crimes with German culprits involved.
Another common theme is the negative portrayal of the asylum issue. Asylum seekers are denominated as “bogus refugees” (Scheinasylant) or terms like “over-foreignisation”, “flood” or “glut” are used for the influx of refugees. Those terms instill negative connotations and signal danger to German society. Background information about reasons for their flight are rarely addressed. 
Lastly, the image of Islam within the media should be addressed. In large parts of the public discourse, Islam is portrayed as repressive and anti- modern. Further, it is associated with anti-feminine positions. Media predominantly makes use of generalizations of Islam and modern forms of Islam are barely acknowledged. Islam, when looking at issues related to foreigners and immigration, is most strongly covered in connection with events classified as negative, such as terrorism. The most frequently covered issues are violence in connection with Islamic extremism, religious faith and social conflicts, cultural and clothing habits and religious education. Regarding education, the fear of potential influence of extremism is an important factor. 
When looking at the current situation, one can identify similarities to the research presented above. Crime is still a prevalent theme in connection with refugees. A special focus should be set on social media in this context. Stories of crimes committed by refugees are shared in social media which present refugees as criminals and instill fear and xenophobia. Mostly those stories turn out to be false, but a sense of fear of the criminal refugee remains. 
There are stories of refugees displaying bad behavior in supermarkets like urinating on the vegetables or stealing goods.
The issue of rape by lewd refugee men is a prevalent topic shared as well. The ARD, one of Germany’s public service TV stations, broadcasted a show investigating some of those rape rumors. There is one example from a town called Donauschingen where a girl was said to be brutally raped by a refugee who later cut her ears off. Even the police started investigating but could not find a victim in hospitals or shelter homes. 
Movements like PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident) and political parties like the AFD (Alternative for Germany) stir tensions with the image of the criminal refugee and the lewd Muslim refugee men. Bernd Hoecke (AFD) for instance stated that blond German women are at risk of becoming victims of rape by refugee men. 
Facebook’s policies are under critique in the context of racist hate speech spread in social media as the provider does not delete much of the racist remarks. There are cases though where German authorities can actually investigate against the perpetrators. 
The crime statistics state that Germany did not witness an increase in criminality with the influx of refugees. Refugees commit crimes on the same level as native Germans, while sex crimes are below 1%.
Since the attacks of 9/11 an increasing distrust and hostility against Muslim minorities could be identified within the EU in general, as a report released by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights had shown. Harassment and attacks have also increased. 
After 9/11 the number of articles in German print media referring to Muslims and Islam increased significantly and a negative connotation prevailed. 
German media investigated and published mainly about the threat of terror, rather than reporting about the daily life of the Muslim population, their understanding of Islam and their condemning of the attacks. Further, social problems were regarded more into connection with Islam and the identified problem of Muslim integration, manifested in “parallel societies”. 
The Swiss evaluation service “Media Tenor” conducted an analysis of 2.6 million TV-shows in Germany, Great Britain and the US and found that the negative portrayal of Islam within the media reached a new high point in 2014. One reason is the lack of voice Muslim organizations and representatives had, while reports about Islamist terror groups are dominant. 
The book “Migrantinnen in den Medien” by Lünenborg, Fritsche and Bach, arrives at the conclusion that Muslim women are portrayed within a limited repertoire of roles. They are presented as victims or in need of integration. The women with veil became the personified symbol of religious and cultural foreignness and threat. 
The communication scientist, Georg Ruhrmann, in an interview with the Badische Zeitung, concludes that negative topics prevail when reporting about asylum seekers. The press reports about single incidences, mostly with negative connotation of crimes committed. While in a research on the daily press in 1987 not a single migrant was voiced, follow-up studies in 2005 found that in about 30% of articles the affected could voice their point of view. But the focus on negative incidences remained. Ruhrmann found that today there is more focus on political aspects of asylum and even accommodation of asylum seekers is addressed. But still issues like crime within the social group of migrants is more strictly observed than within the majority group. In the context of crime statistics, he encourages the readers to think critically as oftentimes the numbers are not put into relation or their explanation is insufficient. Even if background information about asylum politics within the European Union is increasingly provided, the complexity of migration is oftentimes not addressed. Further, he identifies differences within the boulevard press and the German quality media. While the boulevard press is emotional and moralizing, the quality press provides reflected and differentiated view points. 
Further, the Paris attacks of November should be considered in regards to the medial portrayal of asylum seekers. Even before the Paris attacks there were voices warning that there could be terrorists among the refugees. 
After the Paris attacks European leaders and the media quickly linked the threat of terror to immigration and Muslim asylum seekers in particular. 
The UNHCR in response warned that refugees should not be turned into scapegoats. 
Ruhrmann states that the impact of media varies with the attitude of each individual. He further mentions a study conducted in 2007 about the influence of media reporting on the reaction of the spectator. In this study the participants were divided into two groups: One group saw a single incident reported in a highly emotional manner, while the other group watched news reporting explaining a political issue related to migration. The first group reached an emotional state that they could not explain, while the second group was able to memorize facts and discuss them. 
The communication scientist, Magreth Lünenborg, is rather reluctant when it comes to the influence that media has on society. The way media influences its audience is highly complex, there is no such thing as a direct mechanism. But the images media creates are in no way insignificant. 
Even if no direct influence of the media on society can be identified, the way media reports, affects its audience. Therefore it is of high importance that media provide background information and different viewpoints. Media should restrain from emotional and sensational reporting which may lead to emotional responses within the audience.
 ERCOMER (2002), p. 125
 S.a., p. 136
 S. a, p.136
 S.a., pp.137-138
 For instance: http://www.swr.de/landesschau-rp/stimmungsmache-am-hahn-ueble-geruechte-ueber-fluechtlinge/-/id=122144/did=16468876/nid=122144/t8bcjf/index.html
 Quoted in http://mediendienst-integration.de/integration/medien.html
 Here is a sample of articles addressing this issue: http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2015-10/fluechtlinge-terroristen-de-maiziere-einwanderung , http://www.bild.de/politik/inland/fluechtlingskrise/sind-unter-den-fluechtlingen-auch-isis-terroristen-43414312.bild.html , https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/fluechtlinge-is-101.html
Follow-up on the refugee crisis
Main legislative changes which occurred while and because of the escalation of the refugee crisis
Due to the massive increase in the number of newly arriving asylum seekers in 2015, the BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) has not managed to keep up with the registration of applications. Asylum seekers are therefore now frequently registered on a preliminary basis only. Asylum statistics for the period January through October 2015 indicated that 331,226 (first) asylum applications had been registered, while about 758,000 persons had been recorded as new arrivals by various authorities. This implies that more than 425,000 asylum seekers had to wait for their applications to be registered at the end of October 2015.
The “protection rate” was at a high level in the first ten months of 2015, with 41.2% of asylum decisions of the first instance resulting in some form of protection. One of the main reasons for the high protection rate can be found in the prioritization of certain caseloads by the responsible authorities. In particular, Syrian and Eritrean nationals and members of religious minorities from Iraq (Christians, Mandeans and Yazidis) are now frequently granted refugee status on the basis of a questionnaire.
The list of “safe countries of origin” was amended to include Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. However, as of September 2015, even before these countries were officially added to the list of safe countries of origin, two “combined reception and return centers for asylum seekers without prospect to remain” were set up specifically for asylum applicants from safe countries of origin. Cases of asylum applicants from safe countries of origin are prioritized and regularly rejected as “manifestly unfounded”.
As of 21 October 2015, the policy of suspending Dublin procedures for Syrian nationals “to the greatest extent possible”, announced in August, was ended. The rules of the Dublin Regulation have therefore been reinstated in respect of Syrians.
A new distribution system for unaccompanied children has been set up along with other changes in the reception system for unaccompanied minors.
The amendment to the Asylum Act has modified the grounds for restricting material reception conditions for asylum seekers. While the maximum stay in those centers is generally 6 months, the law provides that applicants from safe countries of origin are obliged to stay in initial reception centers throughout their entire procedure.
Rules on access to the labor market were modified by the amended Asylum Act as of October 2015. Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are now generally excluded from access to work.
Following an amendment of the Residence Act, entering into force in August 2015, the grounds for detention of persons subject to the Dublin III Regulation have been defined. The law also sets out the criteria used to determine the existence of a “risk of absconding”.
Detention of foreigners for the purpose of removal (including Dublin cases) has generally remained low in 2015 as in 2014. As of October 2015, approximately 90 persons were in detention, including 50 in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
*Source: Asylum Information Database (aida) – http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/germany/overview-main-changes-previous-report-update
The subjective perspective
I want to make use of this personal perspective section to raise the issue of sexual violence in refugee shelters. While the issue fortunately gains increasing attention by means of NGO publications and media coverage, still little has been achieved. That is why I would like to bring this problem up in this context.
The UNHCR writes about the specific risk of sexual violence refugees face in conflict and when they flee the fighting:
“During armed conflict, social structures are disrupted. Women and children face the additional risks of being subjected to sexual and gender-based violence when fleeing the fighting and seeking asylum. Family members are often dispersed during flight, leaving children separated from the rest of their families and women as solely responsible for protecting and maintaining their households.”
But not only during conflict and on their flight but also in the shelters in the country of destination they are not safe. Certain groups of refugees though face a higher risk of becoming victims of sexual violence than others:
“Experience shows that unaccompanied women and lone female heads of household are at the greatest risk of being subjected to sexual violence. Children are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse given their high level of trust. Unaccompanied children and children in foster families also are especially at risk. Furthermore, refugees of all ages and both genders face a significantly increased risk of sexual violence when in detention or detention-like situations. Refugee workers should be aware that the very old, the infirm, and the physically and mentally disabled may also be vulnerable to attack. “
Further, according to German media reports, also members of the LGBTQI* community are at risk in refugee shelters. 
In order to combat sexual violence it is important to understand factors contributing to the vulnerability. Suggestions are made by several NGOs, of which some seem ridiculously easy:
– Provide rooms that can be locked
– Separate sex sanitary facilities that can be locked
– Women’s dorms close to sanitary facilities
– Specially trained and sensitive shelter personnel
– Contact person for refugees that are members of the LGBT+ community (possible to be identified wearing a certain bandage for instance)
– Separate shelters for women fleeing alone or with their children
– Educate inhabitants of shelters in an easy and understandable manner, if possible in their mother tongue, about their rights and opportunities of support when facing sexual and gender based violence
– Specifically trained female contact person that the refugees can trust with their experiences of sexual and gender based violence
– Unrestricted application of the violence protection act: An immediate spatial separation of victim and perpetrator must be possible.
– Trainings for police and volunteers about sexual and gender based violence
Addressing sexual and gender based violence in shelters is a very sensitive issue in the German context as the anti refugee movement makes use of racist stereotypes by portraying Muslim refugee men as lewd and a potential threat to German women. While it is important to be aware of this, it should never silence us in addressing the issue of sexual violence.
 http://www.unhcr.org/3f696bcc4.html , p.20
 http://www.unhcr.org/3b9cc26c4.html , pp.4-5
 See: http://www.thueringer-allgemeine.de/web/zgt/politik/detail/-/specific/Tabu-Thema-Gewalt-in-Thueringer-Fluechtlingsheimen-708745456
 See for instance at Terre des Femmes https://www.frauenrechte.de/online/index.php/themen-und-aktionen/aktuelles-zu-frauenrechten-allgemein/1888-terre-des-femmes-fordert-besonderen-schutz-fuer-frauen-auf-der-flucht
 For examples see: https://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/2015/panorama5858.pdf
Economics and life have a funny connection, truth be told. Not since the second world war has the world seen such an influx of refugees/migrants in any part of the planet. In the laws of Economics, when the price of a commodity is high, the demand for the same goes downhill, and vice-versa.
Just take the above in the connotation of misery in the life of a refugee and you will find a simple albeit uncanny truth of life. When life of in the homeland of an individual is disrupted, one sees a gradual and even sporadic rise in the number of refugees.
Therefore violence and unrest increase only to increase the level of upheaval. So what is that I’ve learned from this? Ever since coming on board on IWB as a researcher, I’ve gotten a chance to examine the myriad ways of living and being from the standpoint of a refugee. I’ve also been exposed to the bitter anomaly in the wider world which is also a critical underlying truth about the times we live in.
Here’s the truth
Since a tremendous amount of refuges measure in excess of 300,000, moving to different countries and fleeing to different world cultures in Europe, there is bound to be a cross-cultural vacuum in the lives of those who move and the lives of those who host/offer shelter or asylum to the victimized.
Implicit in the provision of this process is a need to understand that simple and even trivial sounding values/virtues of life such as Compassion are primed to play an important role. Now, you might ask how is that?
Imagine an educated Syrian migrant, displaced by the upheaval in wartime Middle East being forced to flee to Europe’s economic giant: Germany! The Syrian, already devoid of education and necessary economic support is slated to begin a new life amidst situations that offer peace, solace and importantly, resuscitation to his bearings, rescuing him from the obscurity back in Syria. While the rebuilding process of a life has begun, at the same time there is bound to be a lot of chaos in the life of the person who has absolutely no idea about the benevolent Nation that has offered welcoming abode to the disturbed.
The language, the customs, the culture and simply, the normal ways of being, are all alien thus far in a country that is on the verge of accepting a new life form (for the lack of better expression).
The Syrian can offer nothing else but pure faith and seeks dependence on the generous host and the German can offer perhaps the most pivotal differentiating factor in the person life’s ; a new home, a new life. Now, amidst this changing tide there may be a certain animosity (realizing it is a potent word) between the Syrian and a certain section of German population in terms of resisting inclusiveness of persons from a different demography.
So, what I sincerely recommend to my distinguished fellow researchers and fellows is the following in lines with the above observation
If you follow compassion on both ends; the refugee/ displaced/migrant and the host country- then this leads to acceptance of DIVERSITY + INCLUSIVENESS
In lines with the above, I sincerely urge that the host nation’s denizens be open and willing to morally/ emotionally accept a member from a different part of the world and perhaps distance from a very natural ‘course of digression’ that may precede from the host nation’s government, whose policy is to accept rather to reject.
To elaborate the above, it has to be said that if regular citizens be communicative and interactive with those who are being sheltered, then this shall breed familiarity and warmth that opposes contempt for the Xenophobe.
Also, the refugee or displaced regardless of whether he or she is seeking temporary asylum or any other factor of inclusion, be courteous, polite, responsive and prudent to the host nations’ culture, practices and way of life that governs both civilian and social life, adhering to the government’s policies, and thereby, the nation’s value system.
Akin to a food chain where one has to factor in the first and the last end of the chain in the entire spectrum, in the process of an individuals’ life building, there’s got to be creation of a BRIDGE that can shorten and smoothen the JOURNEY of both, the displaced and the host.
The world, where it stands today, needs parity on both moral and socio-cultural grounds to pave way for greater inclusiveness of myriad cultures within a social system and demography. This way, the context of Refugee Problem will be devoid of the word problem. This shall in turn lead to a peaceful revolution which is what not just the volatile Middle East but even the developed Europe and other parts of the world needs.
– thank you.