Germany has announced it is ready to begin sending asylum seekers who have already applied for asylum in another EU country back to those countries to complete the process. The so-called 'Dublin transfers' were paused towards the end of March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany's Interior Ministry told the German press agency dpa that it would be starting to transfer asylum seekers from Germany who had already started their asylum process in another EU state.
The transfers, which take place under the EU Dublin regulations, meant to prevent asylum seekers applying for asylum in more than one state and restrict them to apply in the first EU country of entry, were paused on March 23 due to the restrictions placed on travel and movement by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"As we lift the restrictions about crossing borders and the warnings about travel within the EU, then the possibility of making Dublin transfers also returns," said a statement from the Interior Ministry which was seen by dpa.
Freedom of movement returns
Germany, like many other EU states, lifted custom controls and some flight restrictions on June 15.
It is preparing to allow complete free movement of people and goods across the Schengen zone and from the UK from June 21, the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a press statement on June 10.
That is, providing, there is no new rise in infections in any country, the statement added. The so-called "Dublin transfers" will begin with Germany's neighboring countries, with which it shares a border.
Later, said the dpa report, Germany will start chartering flights too. Any transfers will of course take place after controls to prevent any further spread of coronavirus, said the interior ministry paper, according to dpa.
Anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus or COVID-19 will of course stay in Germany until they are no longer infectious.
More transparency needed
The director of the pro-asylum group Pro-Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, said that the German government wasn’t being completely transparent about information they were releasing about the restart. He said that it was clear that eventually Germany would intend to fly people back to Italy and Greece, where most migrants and asylum seekers first enter the EU.
"In Italy, even before corona there were problems facing those who were sent back. Lots of them face homelessness for instance," Burkhardt told dpa. He said he feared that the coronavirus restrictions which hit Italy particularly hard would only make this situation more devastating for migrants and asylum seekers sent back there.
Countries like Italy and Greece have long argued that the Dublin regulations are unfair. It leaves them shouldering the majority of the burden of trying to process asylum claims because they are the countries where the majority of migrants and asylum seekers first arrive.
months of stand-offs where rescue ships were blocked from
disembarking migrants rescued in Italian and Maltese ports in summer
2019, an agreement in September by some EU states, including Germany,
Italy, Malta and Greece
The agreement was meant to allow a voluntary sharing of migrants arriving in Italy and Malta, however, so far, it has operated on a case-by-case and stop start basis, which has led to more standoffs, particularly during in the last few months as Italy and Malta once again declared their harbors closed due to coronavirus.
In Greece, a transfer of 1,600 of the most vulnerable migrants and unaccompanied children was announced in the spring. So far though only a few states have begun transfers and only a few hundred have actually flown out of Greek airports.
Germany's left-wing Die Linke (The left) party recently presented a paper regarding migration, in which it argued that the Dublin transfers should be stopped altogether. The paper also proposes that Germany take 10,000 migrants directly from Greece to try and ease the overcrowding facing migrants and asylum seekers in that country.
However, according to Germany’s TAZ newspaper, Burkhardt from Pro-Asyl thinks that is still not enough and proposes that Germany take all of the migrants currently waiting on their asylum process to be decided. There are more than 100,000 migrants and asylum seekers currently in Greece.
According to the TAZ, Germany’s current coalition government formed of social democrats SPD and conservatives CDU-CSU have vetoed that idea. "People expect solutions from us which are actually achievable," said the migration spokesperson for the SPD in parliament Lars Castellucci.
"The Linke party just raises the problem and says something needs to be done but they haven’t yet presented a workable concept to achieve that."
Material taken from dpa in German