Bavaria plans tougher approach to asylum-seekers in Germany

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder has unveiled new measures to speed up the asylum process and deport rejected applicants. He believes the rest of Germany should follow his lead.

With Bavaria’s elections only a few months away, State Premier Markus Söder of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), is advocating a tougher stance on asylum-seekers. The CSU, which has traditionally dominated Bavarian politics, fears large numbers of voters could turn their backs on the party and support the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) instead. That is why Söder now wants to speed up asylum applications, deter others from coming in the first place and swiftly deport rejected applicants.

Söder’s approach matches that of his predecessor, Horst Seehofer, who now serves as Germany’s interior minister and has proposed a similar plan for the whole country. It envisions establishing centres to house asylum-seekers after their arrival, process their asylum applications and deport them if their application has been rejected. Seehofer, however, has so far been unable to convince other German states to adopt this approach, including those governed by the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the sister party to Bavaria’s CSU.

Söder’s plan

Regardless of how the plan has been received at the national level, Söder has vowed to adopt this tough stance on asylum-seekers in Bavaria. His plan envisions the following:

–    Asylum centres will be established in each of Bavaria’s seven administrative districts. Already existing institutions will be repurposed.

–    Asylum-seekers will be housed in these centres, which will also carry out their application processes. Rejected applicants will be directly deported. Those who are granted asylum are only then distributed throughout Germany.

–    Asylum-seekers shall, if legally possible and practicable, receive noncash benefits instead of money.

–    Rejected applicants will be deported from Bavaria using chartered planes and a specially trained police force.

–    The state will increase its capacity to incarcerate rejected asylum-seekers prior to deportation. Violent applicants must expect to be jailed and to lose their right to reside.

–    A funding program will support deportees in their home countries. Financial and other support will also be provided to entice countries to take their citizens back.

–   Asylum-seekers will be prohibited from working. Instead, they will be encouraged to take up charitable work.

Interior Ministry has no objections

Söder’s plan is unique because it proposes putting the Bavarian state in charge of deportations — that process is currently coordinated and carried out by authorities on the national level. Bavarian leaders are seeking to independently charter aircraft to deport rejected asylum-seekers instead of waiting for the authorities in Berlin provide a plane, and Söder wants to use a specially-trained state police force to do the job.

Söder’s plan to use state police to carry out deportations has put him at odds with national law enforcement

Germany’s national police force has expressed opposition to the idea. Ernst Walter, who heads the country’s DPolG police union, thinks Söder’s proposals are merely an effort to “whip up support ahead of the elections,” which “suggests the national police are not doing their job well.” He says that law enforcement is not to blame for failed deportations, but rather Bavaria, like other states, sometimes struggles handing over rejected applicants to national police.

Kyrill-Alexander Schwarz, who teaches constitutional and administrative law at Würzburg University, believes that “going it alone without national authorities will not be possible.” Only Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees has the power to order deportations, says Schwarz, and the national police force must carry them out. Although he admits that of course “national authorities could allow the Bavarian state to use national police officers.”

Decision-makers in Berlin, meanwhile, have not objected to Söder’s plan. A spokeswoman for Germany’s Interior Ministry said on Monday that it would “in principle” welcome states carrying out deportations on their own accord.

© DW

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