What protection status will Afghans who were evacuated to Germany receive, and can those airlifted to other EU countries apply for asylum in Germany if their families are here? InfoMigrants asked the German authorities for some answers.
The German government managed to airlift 5,300 people from Afghanistan in August – among them roughly 4,000 Afghans, as well as German nationals and people from other countries. But there are still thousands of Afghan citizens who want to know whether they and their family members are eligible for protection in Germany.
Letters have been sent out to some people from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) telling them to submit an application for asylum. Some people then received a second letter telling them to ignore the original advice because no final decision had yet been made on whether they would come under Section 22 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz), a special category of protection.
Many people have asked InfoMigrants for clarification, with questions such as whether those people who were evacuated to other EU countries can apply for asylum in Germany if they already have family members here, and what will happen to Afghans who had already applied for asylum in Europe before the August evacuations.
A press spokesperson for BAMF provided the following information on September 10:
- For anyone seeking protection, the general provision applies that any foreign citizen in the territory of Germany has the right to apply for asylum and have their application examined on an individual basis.
[*Note: Pro-Asyl, a large advocacy organization for migrants and refugees, says that it is very important to seek professional advice from a refugee association or a lawyer before submitting an asylum application – even if you have good reasons such as a high chance of receiving refugee status because of an individual threat or because you want to bring family to Germany through the family reunification procedure.]
- Applications for asylum from Afghan nationals are being processed quickly but with due diligence, so this cannot be done in just a few days. Asylum cases where the outcome depends on the current situation in Afghanistan are on hold pending a new country assessment from the German Foreign Office. Inadmissibility decisions [ie, unsuccessful asylum applications] which are not related to the current situation in Afghanistan, such as Dublin cases, have not been put on hold.
- German authorities are responsible for registering those evacuated from Afghanistan as well as their families after their arrival in Germany, for managing their reception in initial reception facilities and distributing them to various German states.
- Former local staff [of the German Bundeswehr], their families and other vulnerable Afghans who were evacuated to Germany will receive a temporary residence permit in accordance with Section 22 of the German Residence Act. [This section provides that a foreigner may be granted temporary residence by the interior ministry.] The residence permit is limited to a maximum of three years and can be extended beyond this period if the reasons for which it was granted continue to apply.
- Those admitted in accordance with Section 22 of the Residence Act are assigned to a German state and required to take up residence in that state. [This is according to the distribution mechanism among Germany's 16 states known as the Königstein Key. Under this system, exceptions can be applied for. The geographical restriction may not apply if the person is working or studying.]
- If an individual who has submitted an application for asylum turns out to be eligible for admission under Section 22 of the Residence Act, this will be taken into account in their asylum proceedings.
- Afghans who did not receive an "admission permit" from the German government [issued prior to the end of the military evacuation operation on August 26] but who said that they had worked as local staff for German authorities or organizations or were, for example, human rights activists, women’s rights activists or journalists, were being considered for admission under Section 22 of the Residence Act, according to BAMF. Some of these cases have not yet been decided.
Employment and benefits
Pro-Asyl has provided more information about the residence permit offered under Section 22 of the Residence Act:
- The residence permit entitles the permit-holder to access employment, including self-employment, as well as training or academic studies.
- Residence permit-holders and their families are entitled to receive social benefits commonly known in Germany as Hartz-IV (or SGB II). Applications must be submitted to the local job center.
- There is no legal entitlement to an integration course, ie. language lessons, but this can be applied for, and it may also be offered through the job center or workplace.
According to Pro-Asyl, family members who do not have a residence permit under Section 22 of the Residence Act may be able to come to Germany "for reasons of international law or humanitarian reasons, or to safeguard the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany," but this is "only possible in exceptional cases."
The International Organization for Migration's Family Assistance Programme can help with applying for family reunification. Afghan applicants who have not yet applied for family reunification in Germany can contact the IOM by email at email@example.com or by phone on +49 (0) 3029 0224 5500.
General information on applying for asylum in Germany is available here.
Some answers to Frequently Asked Questions on assistance leaving Afghanistan for German nationals and other entitled to protection are available at the website of the German Foreign Office here. The site is in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.