According to Germany's asylum office BAMF, anchor centers for asylum seekers still aren't living up to their promise of speeding up asylum procedures. While the government defended the facilities, others criticized it.
So-called anchor centers ("Ankerzentren") for asylum seekers haven't significantly accelerated asylum procedures in Germany. Since their inception in 2018, first-time asylum applications of newly arrived migrants have been processed only five days faster compared to other facilities -- in 77 compared to 82 days.
That's according to an evaluation report of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) cited by the Protestant Press Service (epd).
When it came to follow-up applications, the improvement was nine days, according to the report. So-called Dublin procedures, which examine whether a different EU member state is responsible for the asylum process, take just as long in anchor centers as in other BAMF facilities.
The authors of the roughly 200-page report, for which BAMF staff visited 14 anchor centers, spoke of a "slight efficiency gain".
BAMF called the findings of the evaluation report on 14 the anchor centers and "similar facilities" in six federal states "consistently positive". Stephan Mayer, parliamentary undersecretary in the federal interior ministry, said the anchor centers had "more than proved their worth."
However, the rate of deportations was also worse than elsewhere: Whereas authorities in the 14 anchor centers within two years deported 31% of the some 3,300 asylum seekers who were obliged to leave the country, the number at other reception facilities was 36%.
What has happened significantly faster at anchor centers, though -- according to the report --, are voluntary returns of rejected asylum seekers. On average, people staying at anchor centers decide to leave 37 days sooner than people whose procedure is determined at other facilities.
Germany's Left Party (Die Linke) called the report "sugarcoated". Anchor centers were a "political failure" as they did not live up to Interior Minister Seehofer's promise of speedier procedures and deportations, parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke told the Funke Media Group.
"Instead, they incapacitated and disenfranchised those people forced to live in extremely close quarters and cut off from independent counseling options and the civil society," Jelpke said.
The Bavarian Refugee Council echoed Jelpke's criticism, calling parliamentary undersecretary Mayer's verdict "brazen" in an online statement and on Twitter. The charity also called for the abolishment of anchor centers.
BAMF evaluated more than 30,000 procedures at the 14 anchor centers and, for comparison, more than 160,000 asylum procedures at other facilities.
Anchor centers were set up in 2018 as a cornerstone of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer's migration policy to speed up asylum-related processes to take no more than three months. Asylum seekers stay in the facilities until they receive a decision on their asylum application.
Migrant and refugee organizations have long criticized the facilities for cutting asylum seekers off from society and exposing them to inhumane living conditions.
Last year, asylum procedures at anchor centers had slowed down: Between January and November 2020, the waiting time between the submission of an asylum application and the decision issued by the applicable authority running an anchor center was at an average of 8.5 months -- two months longer than the average duration of all asylum procedures in total during this period.
The word fragment "Anker," stylized AnkER, is an acronym for An(kunft) (Arrival), k(ommunale Verteilung) (communal redistribution), E(ntscheidung) (decision) and R(ückführung) (return). Various government departments involved in asylum decisions work together at the centers to speed processes.
With epd, KNA