Many people seeking protection first reach German soil in Brandenburg. The SPD in power there is calling for border controls and deportations. How much relief do these measures really bring?
Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke got what he wanted: stationary border controls with Poland. Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser was always against it and gave in. “We have to do everything we can to curb illegal smuggling,” said Woidke. The current situation is unacceptable.
The German-Polish border has become a migration hotspot. The federal police do not report more “unauthorized border crossings” from any other neighboring country.
Anyone seeking asylum is allowed to cross the border
So will the new controls lead to fewer asylum seekers entering the country? From a purely legal perspective: hardly. Anyone who is caught at the border and wants to apply for asylum is allowed to continue traveling. According to estimates by the police union (GdP) in Brandenburg, this affects between 90 and 95 percent of people who cross the border without a residence permit and are picked up by the federal police.
Lars Wendland fears that the controls will mean more work for Brandenburg’s authorities, not just the police. The GdP chairman for the federal police in Berlin-Brandenburg argues that the controls would primarily lead to more asylum procedures.
He expects that people who would otherwise travel unnoticed to another EU country will now also be picked up and would be cared for directly there. “The fact that fewer migrants are coming to Germany as a result of these controls is a fallacy,” said Wendland. He fears the opposite.
border controls lead to more asylum applications
Migration researcher Gerald Knaus compares German expectations with the reality in Austria. There have been extensive border controls there for a long time. More asylum applications are being submitted here today than before the controls, more than in any other EU country. “Appropriating people only leads to them all applying for asylum in Austria,” Knaus says ARD contrasts.
However, it is questionable whether more asylum applications due to border controls really mean a larger number of people seeking protection in the country. European lawyer Daniel Thym doubts this. “The number of applications may be going up. The number of people who are actually in the accommodation is significantly lower,” says Thym.
For example, anyone who is caught at the German-Polish border and is actually on the way to France may apply for asylum here in order not to be turned away – and then continue traveling anyway. European rules stipulate that asylum seekers can be sent back to the country of their first asylum application. In practice, however, this often doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen in a timely manner, explains Thym. Then a second or third asylum procedure takes place.
SPD wants to deport people more consistently
The SPD Brandenburg knows that the effect of border controls is limited. In a key motion for the upcoming state party conference, which… RBB is available, it says: “Anyone who has no prospects of staying in Europe is not allowed to come to Germany and Brandenburg in the first place.” The party calls for better protection of the EU’s external borders.
But anyone who makes it to Germany without having the right to asylum should be deported more quickly, according to Brandenburg’s Prime Minister. “To do this, we have to consistently implement the rules that are already there,” said Woidke.
Deportations do not solve the problem
At the end of 2022, more than three million people seeking protection were registered in Germany. The vast majority of them are recognized, the second largest group is still in the asylum process.
A little more than a quarter of a million people are required to leave the country, but most of them are tolerated in Germany. They are allowed to stay, for example because they are sick or have small children. Only around 54,000 refugees could actually be deported – and only if they take over a country. That’s 1.8 percent of those seeking protection.
Even this unrealistic ideal case would only provide short-term relief for overwhelmed municipalities. In fact, the federal government expects that, thanks to its efforts to increase deportations, just 600 additional people will leave the country every year. The suspicion is obvious: deportations will not begin to solve Germany’s problems in caring for refugees.
“A reality that can only be managed”
The migration researcher Victoria Rietig calls the population’s expectations of politics excessive. “Our politicians are being held responsible for not being able to solve the migration problem,” said Rietig ARD contrasts. But no one could do that. “It is not a problem that can be solved, but a reality that can only ever be managed.”
Loud ARD GermanyTrend 64 percent of those surveyed see immigration as disadvantageous for Germany. There is particularly great dissatisfaction with how deportations work. More than 80 percent support increased border controls. But what happens when measures like these have little effect?
The lawyer Daniel Thym sees a migration policy that raises unrealistic expectations as a danger to the political mood in the country. “All the projects and laws are symbols, and symbols are important in politics,” said Thym. The big danger, however, is that the numbers will still remain high next summer. “Then we have a problem.” There will be elections in Brandenburg next autumn.