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Germany’s “Migration Summit”: What Will Be Decided Today?

Today, the German migration summit is taking place in the Chancellery in Berlin. Instead of integration, the focus is increasingly on externalisation. Together with other organisations, we are protesting against these plans.

Germany has played an important role in the EU’s migration policy since 2015, when then-chancellor Angela Merkel’s so-called “Open Door Policy” allowed 1 million people to apply for asylum in the country between 2015 and 2016. This led to many heated debates and unfavorable reactions, especially since the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland or AfD had continuously gained support since its foundation in 2013. As the AfD has secured and maintained parliamentary positions for the last six years, it has become clear that centre-right parties such as the Christian Democratic Union or CDU/CSU and the Free Democratic Party or FDP have sped up their race to win over voters. With the FDP forming the ruling coalition in 2021 alongside the Green Party and the centre-left Social Democratic Party or SPD, the pressure to appeal to moderate right-wing voices in Germany seems to have increased.

German States Request More Support, Federal Government Denies It

Today, the 16 states of the federation will hold a summit to discuss the subject of migration. The states and municipalities have repeatedly expressed many issues regarding so-called “integration programs”, as a lack of teachers, social workers, and other public service providers has resulted in complications across Germany. It is evident that in the months preceding the summit, the states’ urgent demands for more support have received backlash from the federal government, which insists it is already doing enough. Moreover, local and state-representatives will demand an increase of financial budgets from the federal government, which Minister of Finance Christian Lindner of the FDP does not intend to provide. Instead, his party as well as many high-profile SPD-MPs would prefer to reconsider the current list of “safe countries of origin”. The current list includes all EU member states, as well as Ghana, Senegal, Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro. Meanwhile, the addition of the so-called Maghreb states Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia has been repeatedly drafted and re-rejected since 2017, alongside Georgia. This addendum will be discussed once more during today’s summit, and the voices urging the federal government to incorporate Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Georgia seem louder than ever, including the state minister of Brandenburg as well as Hamburg’s mayor, who are both SPD-members. The former issued a firm statement to newspaper FAZ in late April, saying that “debates must end at some point”. Lists of “safe countries of origin” are intended to ease the deportation of migrants and refugees, as successful asylum-applications are almost impossible for people who arrive from these countries. This will have devastating effects for individuals fleeing prosecution or other dangers due to their sexual orientation and gender identity or because their political activity deems them dissidents in these countries. While the Minister of Interior declared that the federal government had amended asylum rules in favor of queer refugees in 2022, the classification of a country as “safe” still poses a foundational obstacle to the right to asylum for any applicant.

Fear of Migration Summit Leading to Increased Externalization Policies

In 2022, the number of people seeking safety in Germany had risen in comparison to 2021. This was a consequence of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which led to the arrival of 1 million refugees, of which approximately a million are estimated to have remained in the country. While this development may have exhausted state-infrastructures which were already at overcapacity due to austerity measures in the public sector and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the seemingly “easy” solution of expanding deportation is not viable. Not only does it pose a fundamental jeopardy to the universalist values of human rights, it also sends a dangerous message to the EU and the other Union-member states. As the EU has taken an alarming turn to increase the securitization of “Fortress Europe”, it has become even more important to divert from these politics as a large and influential member state. Indeed, the externalization of migration policies has become apparent once again in the face of Germany’s migration summit, as the newspaper Berliner Zeitung refers to Tunisia’s increasingly important role in hindering the movement of refugees and migrants into Europe. According to statements made by the Tunisian coast guard agency on Facebook, approximately 14,000 people are held back in the coastal provinces of Sfax and Mahdia, which are located approximately 150 kilometers south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Notably, this number is five times as high as in 2022.

Open Letter: Our Demands

Until now, it remains unclear whether chancellor Olaf Scholz of the SPD will partake in the migration summit. Generally, he has remained silent in the weeks preceding the conference, as have the MPs of his coalition party, the Green Party. In the meantime, activists, human right organisations, and NGOs hope that the focus will remain on improving the domestic infrastructures of Germany, and that those capacities which are still available are utilized to their furthest possible extent to accommodate migrants and refugees. According to Die Zeit, the availability of all empty and unused housing units is at 64% state-wide. Moreover, the public news agency of western Germany WDR has recently published an interactive map of the country’s largest and most densely populated and urbanized state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which allows readers to conclude that most municipalities still have capacities for local support, supervision and mentoring programs.

Moreover, in our open letter to chancellor Scholz together with organisations such as Leave no One Behind, Wir packen´s an and ROSA-Rolling Safe Space, we demand that the accommodation of migrants and refugees is designed from a gender-sensitive lens, in accordance with the needs of women. Read the full open letter here.

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