FECL 30 (December 1994/January 1995):
For several weeks, a discussion has been taking place in Germany about the forcible return of certain groups of rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin. The question of how to determine "safe countries of origin" has become a matter of political controversy between Social Democrat and Christian Democrat Länder governments.
At the conference of the German interior ministers (federal and Länder) in late November, the interior ministers of the Länder governed by the Social Democrats demanded a general halt on deportations of Kurds from Turkey and deserters from the former Yugoslavia.
This move has its own history: since the introduction of new restrictive legislation on asylum, the number of asylum applications has dropped significantly. The amendment of the German constitution, a pre-condition for the new law, was approved by a majority of the federal parliament following the Government's promise to create a special status for refugees from civil wars. So far, no such regulation has been introduced on a national level. As a consequence, many refugees currently live in Germany without a stay permit. Hitherto, they had a chance to escape deportation if the Land they were staying in had ordered a temporary halt on forcible return. While such temporary halts were announced by almost all Länder as far as refugees from the former Yugoslavia were concerned, only the Social Democrat Länder stopped deporting Kurds from Turkey. Under federal foreigner legislation, the Länder may decree halts on deportations for a maximum of six months. The Länder-governments can renew the decrees for further periods. The demand of the Social Democrat interior ministers for a more lasting decision on a common federal level was an attempt to overcome confusion and legal insecurity created by the de-centralised practice. But the interior ministers' conference rejected the request. Thus, the decision on deportation stops remains with the governments of the Länder. The Conference decision immediately provoked differing reactions from the Länder. While the Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia announced that he was continuing to deport Kurds to Turkey, his counterpart in Thüringen (Eastern Germany) immediately decreed a halt on deportations of Kurds. The Interior Minister of Berlin announced that a temporary halt on deportations of Serbs and Croats was to be lifted. The measure affects 11,000 Serbian and Croatian refugees. The 25,000 Bosnians in the city continue to be tolerated on a temporary basis.
Meanwhile, the heavy sentences against five Kurdish MPs in Turkey have led to a sudden policy change regarding Kurds threatened with deportation. Giving in to growing pressure from several Länder and from the Liberal Party, FDP (the junior partner in the federal coalition government), the federal Interior Minister Kanther recently ordered a nationwide halt to all deportations of Kurds until 20 January 1995, pending an examination by his ministry of the lawfulness of the sentences in Turkey.
Uwe Geissler (Berlin)