Politics

Too Little, Too Late? Merkel Offers Asylum Seekers Money To Leave Germany

In the past couple of weeks, Germany has started giving out additional grants to failed asylum seekers who agree to be voluntarily deported back to their countries.

Asylum Seekers
geralt / Pixabay

According to German state media, as the initial offer of 1000 euros per person did very little to incentivize failed asylum seekers to leave Germany, additional 3,000 euros for housing support is now being offered to families.

The offer is a part of StartHilfePlus (StartHelpPlus), a government-run program launched in February this year in a bid to ease the repatriation process for failed asylum seekers. Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) official report states that around 890,000 refugees and migrants entered Germany in 2015 alone. As the official data shows, less than half of them applied for asylum, and only 50% of those applications received a positive decision.

The hundreds of thousands of people now living in Germany with little or no prospect of ever being documented can now apply for a government grant by February 18, 2018. The Interior Ministry has lowered the threshold for receiving the government grant, hoping to appeal to a larger portion of the migrants.

Despite the recent mass media coverage, the grant has been in place as of February this year. Migrants who agreed to go back to their countries even before their asylum application was processed have already been offered 1,200 euros per person and up to 500 euros per child. Those whose asylum applications have already been rejected are expected to receive up to 800 euros. A family counting four or more members leaves voluntarily leaves Germany, they can receive an additional 500 euros. Half of the grant is paid upon leaving Germany, while the remaining half is granted six to eight months after they have arrived at their home country.

Nonetheless, the government scheme only applies to migrants coming from countries the International Organization for Migration (IOM) regards as being “safe,” such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Somalia.

A very, very broad definition of safe

The 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention stipulates that an individual may not be returned if “his life or freedom may be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or opinion.” The U.N. High Commission on Refugees also issued guidelines dictating that once granted asylum, refugees may be forcibly returned “only when conditions in their home have changed fundamentally and enduringly, in such a way as to ensure a guarantee of protection to formerly persecuted people.”

However, the convention gives very broad and unclear definitions of “safe” and “changed,” which leaves them free for interpretation. The Chicago Tribune reported on several very public violations of this standard, some of which happened as recently as last year. And while it’s highly unlikely that Germany will follow the steps of Iran, Pakistan, and Kenya, and forcibly return refugees to countries still at war, we are bound to see more attempts to artificially declare peace in highly unstable areas.

German state media reported earlier this week that the interior ministers of the German states will be voting on a proposal to begin forcibly repatriating Syrian refugees as early as next June. Despite Syria is very much at war, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have gained back much of the land captured by the opposition. The U.S. and coalition military forces continue to attack the Islamic State, which has lost more than a quarter of the territory it occupied in Syria this year. The recent liberation of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, two major strongholds of the ISIS caliphate, might prompt Germany’s government to deem the areas safe and start deporting Syrians. With official data from BAMF showing that there more than 24,000 failed asylum seekers from Syria currently in Germany, how long the deportation will take remains unclear.

Merkel’s exercise in hypocrisy

After the August and September 2015 influx of refugees and migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, German Chancellor Angela Merkel engaged in an open-door policy toward the newcomers, calling it a “national duty” and a “moral obligation.”

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants was followed by what center and right-wing politicians have described as “diversity propaganda.” Along with an incredibly positive attitude, the media has shown towards the predominantly Muslim newcomers, a very subtle silencing of nationalist and patriotic ideas began taking place.

German politicians using their voice in the parliament to celebrate the cultural and racial diversity that come with mass migration cast a shadow on the opposition warning about the danger such a large number of migrants posed to the country’s budget. Despite also being warned numerous times about the fundamental discrepancies between the Muslim migrants and the liberal, western culture they were forced to assimilate with, the German government was shocked with every instance of crime, violence, and aggression committed by said migrants. Instead of tackling the problem head-on, local officials handed out leaflets instructing Germans, particularly women, how to act in order to avoid any clashes with the very aggressive migrants.

In order to deal with the increasing percentage of the population worried about the effect mass migration will have on the country’s demographic, government-backed organizations started a very elaborate PR campaign aimed to convince people of the benefits such a large influx of people bring to Germany.  In 2015, just a few months before the biggest influx of migrants to Germany, The Federal Statistical Office of Germany issued the results of their annual coordinated population projection. While objective in tone, the report showed the increase in the population through migration as a positive solution to Germany’s rapidly aging population.

Despite the efforts to present the increased cultural and religious diversity in a positive light, which included publicly threatening Hungary and Poland, countries who refused to take on what Merkel described as “their fair share” of migrants, the 1.2 million refugees have started taking their toll on Germany.

The failure to take strong, decisive action while the migrant crisis was still manageable created what is often regarded as the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. Merkel’s government seems to view refugees as a homogenous mass that can seamlessly move with their political ambitions. Now that a complete cultural and national integration is unlikely to take place, and that the burden on the already unsteady budget is too much to bear, deporting the once welcome migrants seems like the only viable option.