FECL 10 (November 1992):


The only significant reaction of Germany's leading political parties with regard to steadily mounting racist violence in Germany consists in further clamping down on the rights of refugees.
Mass reception camps for asylum seekers, internment-like conditions, camp judges, police powers for camp administrations, summary procedures, mass deportations...
These are the measures agreed upon in a "party compromise" between parties of Mr. Kohl's ruling coalition (CDU/CSU and FDP) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Since 1 July 92 the proposed measures have become law in spite of massive criticism by Amnesty International, the churches and renowned legal experts who had labelled the bill as "amateurish and partly anti-constitutional".

The mass accommodation of all asylum seekers in camp facilities, the shortening of the asylum procedure down to 6 weeks and mass deportations are among the central elements of the new law.

The Länder (constituent states of the FRG) are obliged by law to set up "reception facilities". Each of these camps shall accommodate at least 500-850 asylum seekers at a first stage. The camps are systematically set up in former military barracks which all can be equipped for the accommodation of additional numbers of refugees and are located far away from city centers. They are surrounded by walls and barbed wire. All this leads to an almost total segregation of the asylum seekers. Public control of the situation in the camps is practically impossible. The asylum seekers are held in internment-like conditions. They are prohibited by law to leave the camps without special permission. Unauthorized absence is punishable with up to one year imprisonment.

Thus refugees are under permanent control of asylum authorities and police.

In every camp a police station of 24 officers is set up, with 24 hours per day service. For the first time since 1945 camp administrations are again entrusted with police powers (§ 59) and can detain refugees. All camps have particular arrest cells, destined among other things for the detention of asylum seekers awaiting deportation. All asylum seekers over the age of 14 are systematically submitted to criminal identification (finger prints, data collection). In case of non-authorized absence from a camp, the persons concerned are set on the national police search list within a week.

Critics say that with the new procedure refugees are interned under inhuman conditions, at the mercy of police and state arbitrariness and systematically criminalized.

Within days after their arrival the refugees undergo "preliminary examination" of their asylum request and then are distributed among the various reception camps. Asylum claims preliminarily rated as "manifestly ill-founded" or "irrelevant" are to be decided upon within six weeks. The preliminary evaluation is mainly based on a non-published list of "safe countries". Claims of persecution by nationals of these countries are summarily rated as untrustworthy.. In order to accelerate procedures and deportation measures all authorities involved in the procedure have branch offices on the camp sites. Thus, in a de facto breach of the principle of separation of powers, police, justice and asylum authorities work hand in hand. Officials of the asylum authorities and camp judges (deciding alone on appeals) guarantee a speedy procedure. A special deportation administration (Zentrale Abschiebungsbehörde) is in charge of a smooth organization of deportation measures. Deportation can be carried out already a week after the rejection of an asylum request.

Under the former procedure asylum seekers had to motivate their claim only several months after their arrival. Thus, they had time to seek the advice of a lawyer and prepare evidence for the procedure. Since the introduction of the new procedure, asylum seekers are interviewed upon arrival in the reception camps at the same time as they present their request. At this stage, most refugees are still under the traumatic impression of their flight and persecution suffered at home, they have no access to interpreters or lawyers of their choice, are unaware of the law and afraid to speak. They are thus seldom able to sufficiently motivate their claim in front of an official. The presentation of additional evidence at a later stage of the procedure is no longer admitted.

The deadline for appealing against a negative decision of the asylum authorities has been reduced to one week for refugees whose request is rated as "irrelevant" (Two weeks for "manifestly unfounded" requests). Within this time-limit the appeal must be motivated with all facts and pieces of evidence. Neither the refugees nor the lawyers are able to observe such terms.

Jurists critical of the new law view these procedure accelerating measures as an almost total suppression of the right to legal protection guaranteed by article 19 of the German Constitution (Grundgesetz). They fear that the far reaching encroachments on the fundamental rights to legal defence and fair procedure, once introduced in the field of asylum, will tend to spread into general jurisdiction.

Legal advice and social assistance will no longer be provided to refugees in the camps. The charities previously entrusted with these tasks have refused to continue their activities because of what they characterize as "unacceptable conditions". The social workers of the charities were the only administration-independent persons inside the camps whom refugees could address in urgency situations.

Under the new procedure refugees are exposed to arbitrary behaviour of police and camp administration outside any form of independent and public control. "Non-authorized" persons are prohibited from entering the camps.

On several occasions, policemen have been suspected of grave physical abuse of asylum seekers in camps. In one case in Bremen, the German daily "Die Tageszeitung" accused policemen of torture. According to the newspaper, the policemen had manhandled refugees with electric cattle-drover sticks.

Meanwhile, further racist progroms in Rostock and other German towns have prepared the ground for the next political offensive against the right to asylum. The leadership of the Social Democrats has bowed to insistent calls of the Christian Democrats for an amendment of article 16 of the German Constitution which - a unique thing in Europe - stipulates the subjective and enforceable legal right of "political persecutees" to asylum. According to the Christian Democrats the maintenance of this right of any asylum seeker to his claim before ordinary courts prevents Germany from benefitting from the provisions in the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Convention "Third country removal" [asylum seekers can be sent back in the first EC-country of arrival for the examination of their request and applications by asylum seekers who have been denied asylum in any other EC member state can be rejected without consideration].



Sources: Doris Künzel, BRD: Neues Asylverfahren - Zwischen Mauern und Stacheldraht, "Juridikum" (Vienna) No 4/92, p.23; Ratifizierungsdebatte im Bundestag zum Schengener Übereinkommen, Deutscher Bundestag, 12. Wahlperiode, 89. Sitzung, 30. April 1992; Bericht ber den Stand der Harmonisierung des Asylrechts in Europa, Bundesministerium des Inneren, 27. April 1992; RA Hubert Heinhold, Stellungnahme zur Anhörung im Innenausschuss des Deutschen Bundestages am 18. März 1992 zum Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Neuregelung des Asylverfahrens.