The conference between the federal government and the states in the chancellery under Chancellor Olaf Solz lasted until midnight on Monday. As expected, many German media are commenting today. After all, the course that Germany seems to be charting from now on in the field of immigration policy and asylum policy seems to have been pre-decided for a long time or, according to others, dictated by the actual facts.

According to recent data from the German Statistical Office, a total of 251,213 asylum applications have been submitted in Germany from January to September 2023. This is the highest number since the “record year” of 2016, when 745,545 asylum applications were submitted to Germany. And in 2023, the main country of origin of asylum seekers still remains Syria.

At the same time, the steady rise of the far-right party Alternative for Germany in the opinion polls, in which it comes in second place, in connection with the complex geopolitical puzzle of the two wars in Europe’s neighborhood, are also pushing Germany towards a series of difficult decisions.

The shift towards a stricter immigration policy, given the long-standing pressure from German states and official opposition, is now taking shape in concrete proposals. This was shown by last night’s compromise in the chancellery for a first agreement on key key points, before the individual details take the legislative route.

7,500 per asylum seeker and payment cards

One of the key points of the government-state agreement is the payment by the federal government of 7,500 euros per year for each asylum seeker, and not initially 10,500, as the state side sought, and not even 5,000, as the central government was initially prepared to give government.

From then on, a reduction in the total social benefits provided for asylum seekers, who remain in Germany for more than a year and a half, is expected. With these specific measures, the federal government is trying to give 3.5 billion euros of “breathing” to German states and municipalities, at least for 2024. However, the Ministry of Finance also seems to assess these plans positively, given that one of its goals of liberal Christian Lindner is to make the model of harsh German social benefits less attractive, in the context of a return to a stricter and more disciplined fiscal policy.

An additional measure also agreed is the introduction of prepaid cards, which will have a specific withdrawal limit for asylum seekers to cover their current needs on German soil. A first pilot model is expected to be ready by the end of January 2024, according to the website.

More and easier deportations

Among other things, the agreed upon procedures include fast procedures for examining asylum applications and speeding up deportations in the cases of rejected applicants. Indeed, the intention of the German government to consider the possibility of asylum procedures outside the EU within the framework of the Geneva Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights is interesting. It is also a priority to conclude agreements with third countries in order to remove obstacles related to deportations.

An additional goal of the German government – which largely concerns Greece as well – seems to be closer cooperation with Turkey in the field of migration as well as the re-warming of the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration of 2016 on coordination and cooperation in the dealing with the immigration crisis.

Beyond that, the government and states also support Interior Secretary Nancy Fesser’s plan for permanent controls on Germany’s borders with neighboring countries to tackle irregular immigration and smuggling rings, which despite the measures, continue to operate unmolested reaching up to Brandenburg or Saxony.