Last year there were more than 8,400 Dublin transfers from Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/B.Roessler
Last year there were more than 8,400 Dublin transfers from Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/B.Roessler

Germany has halted transfers of asylum seekers within Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, no general suspension of deportations to third countries has yet been announced.

Germany’s interior ministry said this week that Dublin transfers would not take place “until further notice”.  A spokesperson told the public broadcaster ARD that the European Commission and the EU-member states would be informed about the decision soon. Deportations to third countries could still take place, according to ARD.

The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, BAMF, had reportedly already informed the country’s administrative courts that Dublin transfers were untenable in light of international travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The office is suspending all Dublin transfers until further notice,” the courts were told.

The suspension does not imply that the Dublin states (EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) are no longer obliged to take responsibility for examining asylum claims, BAMF pointed out, only that it was temporarily impossible to carry out transfers.

No general deportation stop in Germany

Germany officially suspended all Dublin returns to Italy in late February due to the Covid-19 crisis. Politicians and refugee advocacy groups such as Pro Asyl have urged the German government to extend the measures to halt all deportations of asylum seekers. 

“Deportations to third countries as well as Dublin transfers should now be suspended, also in view of the poor standard of health care in many countries of origin,” Left Party parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke said.

However, on Wednesday the German Interior Ministry (BMI) had not declared a general halt to deportations. Instead it notes that many countries are already refusing entry to foreign nationals or have limited entry to a small set of specific circumstances. Germany will continue to carry out returns “where (they) are still possible in this context.”

“It should be noted that deportations depend on the (German) federal states’ ability to carry them out and on the relevant foreigners being sufficiently healthy.”

What will happen to the Dublin system?

It is not clear whether Dublin transfers will be suspended across the European Union. "Our principal consideration in these exceptional circumstances is the protection of public health," a European Commission spokesperson told InfoMigrants.

"While the possibility for blanket suspensions is in principle not foreseen in the Dublin Regulation, the situation must be assessed also against the current Coronavirus emergency and the guidelines on borders (and other) measures," the spokesperson added.

"The European Asylum Support Office (InfoMigrants: the coordinating body for EU asylum policy) has asked Member States for more information on the impact of the Coronavirus situation on the implementation of the Dublin Regulation. We are awaiting further information and on this basis will assess the situation and the possible way forward."

Under the Dublin rules, the country in which an asylum seeker first entered the EU is generally responsible for their asylum procedure. If they register in another European country, they are liable to be returned to the first Dublin State.

In 2019, Germany carried out 8,423 deportations under the Dublin rules. Most people were returned to Italy, Albania, France, Georgia and Serbia, according to ARD. The majority of deportees were of Albanian, Nigerian and Georgian origin.


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