© Mohammed Alkhatib for InfoMigrants
© Mohammed Alkhatib for InfoMigrants

The legal situation of Palestinian refugees in Germany is complicated. Many of them have been complaining because their asylum applications have been rejected by German authorities. Does the German legal system discriminate towards them? Ali al-Makhlafi reports from Berlin.

The German Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) registered around 12,1281 asylum applications from Palestinians in 2015, but only 45 of the applications were accepted, according to German news website "Die Welt."

German law experts see these cases as very complicated because of how specific they are. "Authorities are asking them [Palestinians] for evidence that they do not belong to a particular country," German attorney Peter Burhard told "Die Welt."

The authorities are suspicious towards those of Palestinian origin and doubt that they lack a nationality.  According to German law, Palestine does not exist but there are Palestinian citizens. The authorities don’t recognize them as asylum seekers.

When did Germany begin rejecting Palestinian asylum seekers?

Palestinians as a nationality do not fall under the Geneva Convention's definition of a refugee. The German government has created their own system for dealing with Palestinian asylum applications.  Germany rejects asylum and protection requests from Palestinians who come from one of the Middle Eastern countries receiving assistance from UNRWA: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.

Palestinian refugees in Germany often receive subsidiary protection instead of full asylum. Some rejected asylum seekers have complained in court against the German authorities for writing that their nationality was "not clear" or "unknown" on their documents.

Palestinian asylum seekers have been organizing protests and sit-ins in Germany. One protest was near the German parliament in Berlin and another near a building where asylum decisions are issued.  One of the protestors at a sit-in in February, by the name of Abu Shaddaq,  told Infomigrants that the goal of this demonstration was to "raise the voices of Palestinian asylum seekers and share their concerns with the German government." Many Palestinian youth were also protesting lack of access to getting a residence permit and not being able to work or study in Germany, he added.

Why can’t Germany return Palestinian refugees?

Although many asylum applications are rejected, some Palestinians get a right to residence. This is what happened to Mohammad Jabour. According to "Die Welt,"  German authorities tried to deport him 12 times between the years of 1996 and 2000. He was taken by the authorities to the airport, but came back each time because he did not have a visa to any other country and was not taken on by any airline. After all the failed deportation attempts, he was given a right to residence in Germany.

According to the Palestinian activist Abu Shaddaq, "The German government treats Palestinian refugees poorly and some asylum applications are not decided on for a long time while sometimes the refugee gets a quick rejection... We demand that the German government deal with Palestinians in a humane way in regards to what they are going through, both at home and abroad."  He means that they want to be dealt with on a human level and not because of the policies of their government.

Normally, when an asylum seeker is deported from Germany to another country, the other country has to agree to accept them. In the case of Palestinians, they don’t have a formal nationality, which has made German authorities temporarily end deportations of Palestinians.

Longest refugee crisis

The Palestinian refugee problem is considered one of the longest refugee crises in the world and there is still no solution. There are 10.5 million Palestinians, with 7 million of them considered to be refugees according to the Konrad Adenauer foundation website. According to the foundation, not every Palestinian refugee living abroad is in exile or forced absence; not every Palestinian living in exile  is a refugee and not every refugee is registered as one. Also, not every displaced Palestinian is a refugee.

According to Jewish German-language website "haGalil," German authorities refuse, on principal, to grant asylum to Palestinian asylum seekers. They give them the discriminatory “Right to reside” status  without any real rights.

This is different compared to other nationalities such as Iraqis who receive asylum or subsidiary protection. The website considers this not only a violation of human rights but also a violation of an article in German Basic Law, which states that all human beings are equal.

Author: Ali al-Makhlafi/wd


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