Germany’s upper house to rule on asylum restrictions

The Bundesrat has begun debate over a new round of asylum regulations. The Merkel government has been pressed to curb the refugee crisis as Germany looks set to see in influx in the millions.
Deutschland Flüchtlinge in Berlin

Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, is set to decide the fate of a new set of asylum regulations on Friday. The measures, which passed the lower house Bundestag by a wide margin the day before, has garnered significant criticism from opposition parties.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge in Berlin

Pressure has been mounting on Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government to deal more strictly with the refugee crisis.

Although Merkel initially adopted an open-door policy, especially towards Syrians fleeing war in their homeland, a number of developments have forced Berlin to reconsider its policies. They include a string of sexual assaults, many perpetrated by migrant men in the city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve, a significant number of attacks on occupied or planned refugees homes and a newspaper report suggesting Germany could receive up to 3.6 million refugees by 2020.

Merkel had already worked on reducing the number of asylum seekers in Germany by having North African countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria declared “safe countries of origin.”

The so-called “Second Asylum Package” follows months of heated debate. New measures include setting up fast-track asylum processing centers, which would decide the fate of certain groups of migrants in as little at three weeks. This would apply to those from “safe” countries or those who have been uncooperative with authorities.

New regulations also make it more difficult to avoid deportation for medical reasons.

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Germany passes new asylum regulations

Opposition: Merkel’s policy is ‘deprivation’
Deutschland Debatte Asylpaket II Göring-Eckardt

“You are separating families,” Katrina Göring-Eckardt of the opposition Green Party criticized the new laws during the Bundestag debate

The most heavily criticized part of the new legislation affects migrants who are granted only restricted protection under the law because they have been deemed not to be “personally persecuted” in their homelands. This restricts refugees from having their families join them in Germany for two years, including minors who are separated from their parents.

“The federal government continues it’s policy of deprivation…agreement on the Second Asylum Package continued as usual with failures and breakdowns,” the opposition Left party wrote on their website.

The measures passed in the Bundestag by a margin of 429-147 with four abstentions. The Bundesrat, which represents Germany’s 16 states at the federal level, does not have the same power as the lower house to craft legislation but does have final approval over most laws.