The COVID-19 pandemic is changing every day. What is true or good advice now can rapidly become out-of-date, so it’s important to check sites that are updated regularly. Here's a general guide for migrants and refugees in Germany.
In Germany, the spread and containment of the virus and the rules of conduct can be different from state to state. If you are trying to get information about COVID-19 in your state, you can contact the state refugee council or look up the state government website. See health authorities in your state. On the website, you are asked to enter your postal code.
In November, everyone in Germany is subject to the same restrictions on the number of people allowed to meet together, the amount of social distancing required, and the need to wear a nose and mouth covering in public places, including outdoors in some areas.
Meetings outside your home are only permitted with your own and one other household (max. 10 people together). Everyone in Germany is advised to avoid private travel and visits.
Everyone who enters Germany from a risk region has to stay at home in quarantine. No visitors are allowed in your home. If you return from a risk region, you also have to register with the local public health office.
You can find out which countries are risk regions from the Robert Koch Institute (Germany's central scientific institution for biomedicine), which also provides some information on COVID-19 in English.
You can be fined for breaching quarantine. During compulsory quarantine, you are entitled to sick pay (even if you are not sick) if the quarantine was ordered by the health department.
If you are in home quarantine and you have no one to deliver food and other supplies, you can turn to a local church or charity, or let the health department know.
You can find out where to get tested by calling the Germany-wide patients’ helpline 116 117. When you call this number, you hear a recorded voice asking you in German to select from several options. If you stay on the line you will get through to someone and you can speak English with them.
You can also call your state’s Corona hotline (Bürgertelefon zum Corona-Virus). The national health ministry's Corona hotline number is 030 346 465 100.
COVID-19 tests are free for those who are not insured, as long as the test is ordered by the health authorities.
Coronavirus tracing app
Everyone is encouraged to use the Federal Government’s Corona Warn App. This is a tracing app which uses Bluetooth technology to detect other smartphones on which the app is active. Your data is encrypted, so no one can find out anything about you or your location.
There is information about the Corona Warn App in 20 other languages here.
Many migrants living in Germany are seriously impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Migrants are disproportionately represented in low-paid or lower-skilled professions, and may have lost their jobs or be suffering financially as a result of the pandemic.
There are links to information about health and safety issues, short-time work compensation, rights and duties to work and information for self-employed people concerning COVID-19 at the federal employment agency.
If you were unable to pay the rent because of financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic between April and June, your landlord is not allowed to remove you from the flat. However, this provision was not extended, so you do have to pay the rent as usual now. Unpaid rent has to be paid by June 2022. The same applies to unpaid bills (electricity, gas or monthly insurance payments.)
You may have a residence permit because you were able to prove that your livelihood in Germany was secure without state benefits. If this is the case, your right of residence will not be jeopardized by Kurzarbeitergeld (short-time work allowance or ‘furlough’), Soforthilfe für Selbständige (Emergency aid for the self-employed), or a number of other forms of support listed here. This also lists which state benefits do affect your right of residence.
Families under stress
Restrictions on social contact and lockdown can create problems for all groups or families. Unemployment or under-employment, financial problems and pre-existing problems at home can make things worse.
Since restrictions were introduced earlier in the year, violence against women and children has increased. There is a list of support services, plus tips for supporting each other available here.
The violence against women support hotline (free) is 08000 116 016
What about reception centers?
At the end of March 2020, there were more than 40,000 people in first reception centers in Germany, according to Mediendienst Integration. These asylum seekers, as well as those living in other shared accommodation, are unable to maintain physical distancing, adding to the risk of infection.
Some people in facilities such as reception facilities are under total quarantine. So far there are no uniform national measures for these facilities in Germany. If you have problems in the accommodation or reception center, contact the refugee council.
Seeking asylum in Germany
The German government promised in March that no one seeking asylum in Germany would be turned away during the pandemic.
Some branches of the federal office for migration and refugees, BAMF, which were only accepting asylum applications in writing in order to avoid contact, are now conducting counseling and accepting applications in person again, but you will need to check with the immigration office.
Legal deadlines relating to family reunification continue to apply despite the coronavirus crisis. If your family had a visa which expired during an entry ban resulting from COVID-19, it needs to be renewed. Your family needs to apply for a Neuvisierung. Other relevant documents held by the family member in Germany also need to be resubmitted or renewed if they have expired.
If a child turned 18 during the pandemic and is no longer considered a minor, the application you made for family reunification remains valid if it was made at a time when reunification would have been possible before he or she reached the age of 18 -- meaning before travel bans came into effect. In this case, you also need to apply for a Neuvisierung. The same applies for children in the home country or in Germany.
Are deportations from Germany happening?
Yes. There have been some deportations from Germany since the moratorium was lifted at the end of May. Dublin-case deportations to other European Union countries were suspended earlier this year but have officially resumed as of July 15. If you are in a Dublin procedure, you must seek advice from a lawyer or counselling center, such as the refugee council or Pro Asyl (Tel. 069 242 314 20 Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - midday and 2 - 4 p.m.).
•••• ➤You can still take part in a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on refugees and migrants.
Sources used for this article include: