The German authorities have agreed to extend a ban on deporting Syrians back to their country until the end of 2018, said the chairman of the council of state interior ministers Markus Ulbig after a two-day meeting in Leipzig.
Earlier, many representatives of the CDU/CSU had supported the ban on deportations of Syrians to end in mid-2018, but the Social Democrats rejected this proposal.
“Syria is not a country you can deport people to” as long as there are human rights abuses and conflict, said Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius, citing German law and European human rights conventions.
At the same time, state interior ministers instructed the federal government to prepare a report on the current security situation in Syria.
“If there are new findings, interior ministers would re-discuss the issue in particular with regard to criminals and people that are a threat to the public,” said Saxony Interior Minister Markus Ulbig of the CDU.
Meanwhile, according to media reports, the authorities are trying to encourage the voluntary departure of migrants from Germany.
8,639 migrants took part in the return home program between February and October this year. The additional financial incentive that was just announced by Thomas de Maiziere, the Minister of the Interior, actually increases these amounts twice. So far a family of three would have received 3,000 euros: 1,200 for adults and 600 for a child, but now they will receive up to 6,000 euros for leaving voluntarily, Deutsche Welle (DW) reports.
Commenting on the current situation, Scott Watson, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Victoria, drew attention to the fact that Europe often turns a blind eye to the protection of migrants.
“The response of the EU and many of its member states has been discouraging from the perspective of refugee protection. Repatriation deals with Turkey, combined operations to combat ‘smuggling’ with Libya, and recent efforts to encourage so-called voluntary repatriation – are all highly problematic,” the expert told PenzaNews.
In his opinion, such measures shift the burden of responsibility for refugees to less developed countries.
“Firstly, they violate refugee rights and, secondly, ensure developing states continue to shoulder most of the cost of protecting refugees,” Scott Watson explained.
In turn, Kenneth Kristensen Berth, Member of Folketing for the Danish People’s Party, Vice-Chairman of the European Affairs Committee in the national Parliament, stressed that even though the influx of refugees have been reduced, “there are still far too many coming ashore.”
“We need a change in focus so that migrants are kept within confined areas until they can be returned to their native country,” the politician said.
Moreover, he stated that he welcomes the idea promoted in Germany to encourage the voluntary repatriation of Syrian refugees, adding that similar measures are also being taken in Denmark.
“We have had a system like that in Denmark too. I do not find anything wrong with it as such. The expenses for our society to keep them here are far greater than economically assisting them in returning,” Kenneth Kristensen Berth explained.
“It is very important that a clear signal is sent to potential migrants that they will not have a chance to stay in Denmark indefinitely even if they are granted asylum in Denmark,” Member of Folketing said.
But Susan Akram, Clinical Professor and Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Boston University School of Law, reminded that all EU countries are parties to the 1951 Refugee convention.
“It places obligations on states parties to individually assess all claims from individuals seeking asylum in their territories and not to send persons back to a place where they could face risk to life or safety. In addition, EU-wide treaties and agreements require EU states to share the responsibility of refugee and humanitarian resettlement on an equitable basis. Despite these obligations, Europe has responded to the rise in refugee entrants by enforcing policies such as the Dublin regulation, which allows states to refuse to process asylum applications from individuals who entered another EU state where their asylum claim could have been processed,” the analyst said.
The effect of these provisions has been to force countries at the borders of conflict states and countries on the exterior of the EU to bear the overwhelming burden of the refugee and forced migration crises of the last few years, she said.
“One of the most interesting phenomena that marks the current refugee crisis is that border states to the conflict areas, such as Jordan and Lebanon, which are not parties to the Refugee Convention, are bearing the brunt of the crisis, while European states […] avoid their obligations to provide meaningful protection to the refugees,” Susan Akram stressed.
Germany has been among the few interior EU states that has been extremely generous towards refugees from Syria, she added.
“Germany has accepted over 1 million refugees and asylum seekers, about 600,000 from Syria. However, Germany’s initial open policy, particularly towards Syrians, has been changing due to public pressure and to the failure of other EU states to share the responsibility towards the Syrian crisis – let alone refugees and forced migrants from other unresolved crises such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere,” the expert said.
According to her, Germany’s plan to begin deporting Syrians would violate its international law obligations until Syria is actually safe for its nationals to return.
“Nor are such incentives legal without guarantees of safe return, as repatriation as a matter of international law, must be ‘voluntary’ and not in violation of the obligation of non-refoulement. Even if some individuals do accept the economic incentives and return, lack of safety upon return will simply renew the cycle of exodus and there will be another flood of second-time refugees,” she added.
In turn, Ulrike Guerot, Head of Department for European Policy and the Study of Democracy, the Danube University Krems, stressed that the refugee question is one of the hardest and the most complicated in Europe.
“We see this with the distribution key which is not working, we see it with the legal situation, with European court who has ruled against Poland and Hungary that these countries need to take refugees but still they’re opposing,” the expert said.
In her opinion, Europe “is basically not really able to handle this situation.”
“Italy and Greece are the countries welcoming the refugees more or less alone. Speaking about Germany, there is too much thought, energy and money spent on the individuals. They spent too much administrative resources for a very small amount of people. I think that the proportionality between the focus is not right. We should better focus on causes for refugees – the big things – rather than spending a lot of energy on individuals,” Ulrike Guerot explained.
From her point of view, by their actions the authorities only want to make a statement that their people are in a legal order country.
“I can see that the drive for it comes from the wish to convince German citizens that the law is followed: that those who have no right to stay are pushed out. So I can see the reasons why this is done but I think it is not in proportion with respect to what should be done,” the expert concluded.
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