One year after the introduction of so-called 'anchor centers' for asylum seekers in Germany, the interior ministry delivered its first report, saying the new concept was a success. But not everyone is happy with their performance.
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior said in its report that the main goal of the centers had been achieved, namely the speeding up of asylum processes. According to the ministry, asylum applications could be processed in just under two months on average – compared to an average of more than three months for asylum seekers who were not in the care of anchor centers.
Asylum seekers get their case assessed usually within 11 days of arriving at the centers. The Interior Ministry said that it had processed 8,200 cases since the introduction of anchor centers. The German term "Anker Zentrum" is an acronym for Arrival (Ankunft), communal redistribution (kommunale Verteilung), decision (Entscheidung) and return (Rückführung).
Asylum seekers are supposed to stay at these centers while their applications are being processed, which in some cases can take up to 24 months. Various government departments involved in asylum decisions work together at the centers to speed processes.
In August last year, three German states decided to turn nine refugee and migrant reception facilities into so-called anchor centers, a concept put forth by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who used to be the premier of the state of Bavaria. Since last year, a total of 14 such centers have started operations across Germany; however, the majority of German federal states have thus far rejected the introduction of anchor centers. Further anchor centers are currently being planned.
Bavaria: a true vanguard in asylum matters?
Germany's federal state of Bavaria meanwhile had also launched a ministry solely in charge of asylum cases and the return of rejected asylum seekers last year. Working closely with anchor centers in Bavaria, the new ministry also shared positive feedback about its performance one year later, saying that in the first six months alone, the Ministry of Asylum and Repatriation had deported 1,700 people and had convinced 5,600 to opt for voluntary return programs. State prime minister Markus Söder said the new institution represented a "balance between humanity and order."
Bavaria's interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, meanwhile said that with an average duration of only two months between the submissions of an asylum application and a final decision, Bavaria was a vanguard in Germany.
Even though decisions on asylum cases are taken at a federal level and not by the states themselves, Germany's states get to decide on how they organize everything that affects asylum cases, from organizing accommodation to issuing identity papers all the way to carrying out forced removals and deportation. Many believe that creating centers where all the various parties involved can interact with each other directly, such as anchor centers, speeds up such processes.
Green Party against anchor centers
Not everyone is happy with the concept of anchor centers. Germany's Green Party reacted to the anniversary of their introduction with a statement, saying that anchor centers were failing because they "prevent people who are affected by persecution and who are seeking refuge from being cared for in a humane and dignified manner," Green Party politician and member of the Bundestag Filiz Polat commented.
She also said that not all cases were processed in the expedited manner as promised, highlighting the fact that anchor centers recently changed a directive, increasing the maximum stay at their facilities from three months to 18. Polat likened such prolonged stays to "forced accommodation in mass facilities."