Sanctuary for asylum seekers in the St. Pauli church in Hamburg, Germany, 2013 | Photo: picture alliance/A. Heimken
Sanctuary for asylum seekers in the St. Pauli church in Hamburg, Germany, 2013 | Photo: picture alliance/A. Heimken

Appeals from the Christian churches in Germany to stop deportations on special humanitarian grounds are almost certain to be rejected. New figures from the government show that the success rate of claims has plummeted in the past few years.

The chances of migrants' receiving protection against deportation under the system of church asylum have dropped to nearly zero. This year, German authorities have stopped deportation on humanitarian grounds in fewer than two percent of cases, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).

The government announced the figures in response to a question in the German Parliament. Church asylum has been the subject of debate in the country since the government's rejection last week of an appeal by the church in the state of Hesse (Hessen) to stop the deportation to Poland of a pregnant Ethiopian woman.

Huge drop in successful claims

The new figures reflect a huge drop in the success rate of claims for church asylum. In 2015/2016, about 80% of claims were successful, according to the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum. By 2018 the success rate had fallen to around 12%, the SZ reports. In the first eight months of 2019, there were just five successful cases, while 292 claims were rejected. 

Most migrants who receive church asylum in Germany have already been refused asylum in another European country. Following an application from the church, the Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF) reviews the case and may agree to stop the deportation of an individual to the country where they first arrived in Europe.

In order for a deportation to be halted, the migrant has to spend 18 months in the care of the church until the time limit for being transferred to an EU member state has expired. There are currently around 430 known cases of church asylum in the country.

Left warns of 'collision course'

The interior ministry says it assesses all potential cases of humanitarian hardship equally, regardless of who makes the application, the SZ reports. In most cases the courts have backed the BAMF's decision that a person should be deported. If churches base their claim on arguments already considered by the courts, the BAMF will usually insist that the asylum seeker leave the country, the SZ cites the ministry as saying.

However the left party spokesperson Ulla Jelpke, who raised the question in Parliament, accused Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of being on a "collision course" with the churches. Jelpke insisted that cases were "very thoroughly" checked by the churches.
Proponents of church asylum see helping refugees and asylum seekers as a Christian duty prescribed in the bible. It is tolerated by the authorities in exceptional cases if they consider that a person would face a "particular, disproportionate hardship" if they were deported, according to BAMF guidelines

With material from KNA, AFP, EPD

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