The Reichstag, seat of the German parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Germany: What you should know about the amnesty law for tolerated asylum-seekers

The German parliament, the Bundestag, passed amendments to the residence and asylum laws on 4 December.

The governing coalition calls the two laws passed the first phase of its plans to reform the country’s migration laws.

One of the new laws, named “opportunity for right to stay” (Chancen-Aufenthaltsrecht), which enters into force on 1 January 2023, provides for the grant under certain conditions of regular residence permit to well-integrated asylum-seekers who have been living in Germany for more than five years with a so-called ‘tolerated stay permit’ (Duldung). The affected persons are actually obliged to leave the country, but cannot be deported for personal reasons or because of the situation in their countries of origin.

Here’s what you should know about the Chancen-Aufenthaltsrecht

– People who had already been living in Germany without a secure residence title for five years on 31 October of this year are to be granted the new status for 18 months in order to fulfil within this time the requirements for a permanent right to stay. These include, among other things, language skills, proof of identity and securing a livelihood.

– If the conditions for a right to stay are not met after 18 months, the persons concerned revert to the tolerated status.

– Offenders and their families as well as persons who conceal their identity to avoid deportation are excluded.

– Around 137,000 of the approximately 248,000 tolerated persons in Germany could benefit from the new regulation.

The law also provides for an extension of detention pending deportation. Henceforth, foreign nationals will be able to be held in custody pending deportation for up to six months if there is a strong public interest in their being deported. This applies, for example, after conviction for crimes committed. The maximum permissible period of detention pending deportation was three months.

Before the vote in the Bundestag, the SPD had defended the law against criticisms of the opposition. “With this, we are ending the insecurity of many tolerated people who go from one toleration status to the next and are opening up perspectives for them,” said Sebastian Hartmann, spokesperson on domestic policy for the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

With the right of residence, the federal government provides “pragmatic solutions for many thousands of people in Germany who have long been part of our society”, he continued. This is just as important for the people concerned as it is for many employers, for example in the trades or in the care sector, who have employees who until now have only had a toleration permit, the MP added.

The second law passed by the Bundestag speeds up asylum and asylum court proceedings, among other provisions. The aim in each case is to speed up the procedures at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) as well as before the courts.

The law also introduces for the first time an asylum procedure counselling service that is independent of the authorities, where refugees can get advice and help before and during the procedure. The lawmakers expect this to lead to an improvement of the quality of asylum decisions.

A second legislative package is to follow the laws passed by the Bundestag on 4 December 2022 in the course of 2023 as the regulations adopted so far do not yet contain everything that the SPD, the Greens and the FDP have promised in the area of asylum, immigration and naturalisation in their governing coalition agreement.

Femi Awoniyi

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