Germany toughens asylum rules ahead of schedule

  • 24/10/2015
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier (Reuters)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks to Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier (Reuters)

Germany is set to toughen up its asylum rules, a week ahead of schedule, as it faces an unprecedented number of migrants arriving from Syria and elsewhere.

The new bill, adopted by parliament at exceptional speed, had been expected to take effect on November 1.

But it was published in the country's legal gazette on Friday, which means it will become operational on Saturday.

Peter Altmaier, the minister coordinating the government's asylum policy, told ARD television the move was "a signal" to would-be asylum seekers.

Germany has become Europe's top destination for refugees, most of whom travel through Turkey and the Balkans.

It is expecting to receive up to a million migrants this year, after about 200,000 in 2014.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has attempted to rally Germans to the task of welcoming hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and persecution.

However, she now faces a backlash for her open-door policy and has seen her approval rating fall in the process.

The new law seeks to restrict the right of political asylum to exceptional cases for nationals from Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.

These three Balkan nations will be added to the list of "safe" countries, meaning their citizens will not normally be eligible for political asylum.

Furthermore, the multiple cash allowances available to asylum seekers while their cases are being processed will be replaced by benefits in kind, in an attempt to make Germany a less attractive destination for migrants.

In addition, expulsion procedures for those denied asylum will be accelerated.

"We want to improve and we want to improve quickly, as early as this year, as regards expelling asylum seekers who do not the right to remain here," Altmaier said.

Meanwhile agreement appears to be emerging within Merkel's coalition government for setting up a string of "transit zones" on Germany's borders to allow would-be refugees who do not fulfil asylum criteria, such as economic migrants, to be moved out easily and quickly.