Germany’s Deportation Practices: Familiar Rhetoric & Why We Cannot Ignore What’s Happening Across the Pond

By: Angela C. White

In 2016, the German government denied asylum and deported a record-breaking 80,000 people.[1] German deportation practices have been a point of controversy in recent months, especially since the German government has accelerated its deportation processes for those who do not qualify for refugee protection. According to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier, the push to deport more people was an attempt to persuade conservative voters and preserve support for the asylum system.[2]

German states’ foreigners’ registration offices are responsible for governing deportation practices.[3] Once believed to be amongst the EU’s most accepting of refugees,[4] Germany has taken a sharp turn and pushed for more deportations. According to a 2015 poll by YouGov, a British polling company, the majority of Germans believed that there were too many migrants in the country.[5] The change of heart is supposedly related, in part, to the crimes that took place on New Year’s Eve in 2015.[6]  Sadly, deporting people who are suspected, not guilty of crimes, is troubling and sounds vaguely familiar.  

On October 2, 2016, the European Union (EU) and Afghanistan signed a migration agreement called the Joint Way Forward.[7] This Agreement allows member states to deport an unlimited number of people back to Afghanistan, unless they have permission to remain in Europe.[8] Although EU countries already had this ability, the Agreement enables EU countries to bypass Afghan government in its effort to quicken the process and increase the number of deportations. In Germany, however, the deportation process is slower than some would like because Afghanistan is not on Germany’s list of “safe countries of origin,” meaning authorities cannot make sweeping decisions about people seeking asylum.

The Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees is responsible for asylum procedures and offers four types of protection: (1) refugee protection; (2) entitlement to asylum; (3) subsidiary protection; and (4) a ban on deportation, with the most comprehensive being refugee protection and entitlement to asylum.[9] Upon entering Germany, people seeking asylum are placed in reception centers (some of which resemble old factories) as they wait to go through the process.[10] Refugees are given temporary rights to remain in Germany while the Office considers their applications.[11] During this process, people are not allowed access social welfare. [12]If neither refugee protection nor entitlement to asylum is granted, the applicant is then considered for deportation.[13] On the other hand, if asylum is granted, the person is then entitled to social welfare and other benefits available to German citizens.[14]

Generally, people from Eritrea and Syria are granted refugee protection or entitlement to asylum, which allows them to stay in Germany for up to three years.[15] However, one of Germany’s high state courts recently held that Syrians are only entitled to subsidiary protection, which only allows them to stay in Germany for a year.[16] This is particularly devastating because this classification means that parents cannot bring their children or any other close relative from Syria to Germany for at least two years.[17] Further, after the year of protection passes, those who wish to stay must wait five years, and prove they can speak German and have enough income to stay in the country.[18] If the request to stay in the country is denied, people are typically given a thirty-day deadline, maybe even less time, to leave Germany. Further, under the Dublin Rule, an applicant denied asylum in one EU country, is de facto denied asylum in all EU countries.[19]

In 2016 alone Germany received approximately 700,000 people for asylum, and almost 300,000 were rejected.[20] Of that number, 80,000 returned back to their country of origin, and of that number, 50,000 reportedly returned on a “voluntary” basis.[21] This process of voluntary repatriation began within the last few years as an approach to increase the number of people who want to return to their countries of origin.[22] Under this program, the German government will pay someone a sum of money to return back to his or her country of origin and supposedly help him or her find work.[23] Unfortunately, this program is not applicable to everyone.[24] For example, Syrians are ineligible and applicants in general must be without their own funds.[25]

As previously stated, governments of German federal states make the decisions regarding deportation policy. However, since elections are on the horizon, and there is a lot of pressure coming from the right, who knows how many people will be affected by the push for harsher deportation policy. A desire to preserve resources is one thing, but creating a fast track to the nearest exit out of Germany for people trying to escape war, is deplorable.



[1] Germany Aims to Deport Record Number of Rejected Asylum Seekers in 2017, Fortune (Feb. 19, 2017)

[2] Id.

[3] Ausländerbehörden, (last visited Mar. 29, 2017)

[4] Germany took in more than one million refugees in 2015. Germany on Course to Accept One Million Refugees in 2015, The Guardian (Dec. 7, 2015, 8:29 pm)

[5] Will Dahlgreen, German Attitudes To Immigration Harden Following Cologne Attacks, YouGov (Jan. 12, 2016)

[6]  See 1200 Women Were Victims of New Year’s Violence, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Jul. 10, 2016, 6:00 p.m.)

[7] See Joint Way Forward (Oct. 2, 2016) available at

[8] Id.

[9] See generally Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees (last visited Mar. 29, 2017)

[10] See Asylum Procedure, Asylum Information Database (last visited Mar. 29, 2017)  

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] See Federal Office for Immigration and Refugees, supra note 9.

[16] Syrian Migrants Are Not Always Entitled to Refugee Status, Says German Court, DW (Feb. 21, 2017)

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See Asylum Procedure, supra note 10.

[20] Jefferson Chase, Refugee Coordinator Predicts Record Deportations in 2017, DW (Feb. 2, 2017)

[21] Id.

[22] Program Paying Asylum Applicants to Leave Germany Voluntarily Begins, DW (Jan. 2, 2017)

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.