Actually, the role of the Federal President lies beyond day-to-day political events. After all, its influence in day-to-day life is very limited. But what remains to him is the power of the word. And Frank-Walter Steinmeier has now made use of this: During his visit to Italy, the Federal President commented on how, in his opinion, the current migration problem can be brought under control. “It doesn’t work without common European rules,” said Steinmeier in Syracuse. The Italian head of state Sergio Mattarella invited him there.
Syracuse is located in Sicily, on the one hand Mattarella’s homeland, on the other hand many refugees are brought there after they arrive on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Lampedusa has become a hotspot for migration problems in recent days. As the Italian news agency Ansa reports, more than 700 people arrived there on Thursday alone. Last week there were more than 5,000 people a day. The initial reception center is overcrowded and the island has declared a state of emergency.
Germany has suspended the solidarity mechanism for the time being
Even before his departure to Italy on Wednesday, Steinmeier told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera given an interview. In it he called for the burdens in Europe to be distributed more fairly and for Europe’s external borders to be monitored more strictly. “We must decisively combat the criminal business of smugglers.” Germany, like Italy, is “at its breaking point”. Everyone must therefore make an effort “so that the burden remains bearable and the number of arrivals decreases again”.
But cooperation between states is becoming increasingly difficult. Germany, for example, recently suspended the voluntary solidarity mechanism with which the Federal Republic accepts migrants from Italy. The background is that the Italians, for their part, refuse to take back refugees according to the EU’s Dublin rules, and more and more people who were already registered in Italy and other EU states are seeking refuge in Germany. According to EU rules, the member state that enters the refugee first is in principle responsible for the refugee.
Steinmeier said this Corriere della Sera, Germany has taken in more than 1,000 refugees from Italy through this voluntary solidarity mechanism, “more than any other European country.” To ensure that this voluntary system does not remain the same, “a permanent solidarity mechanism should be created” in the negotiations on the Common European Asylum System. The EU states agreed in June to reform the asylum system – in principle.
With his statements, the Federal President is fueling a debate that is being conducted with increasing vehemence and is centered on the question of how the high immigration numbers can be brought down. Meanwhile, new data provides information about where people are making their way to Germany from – and what their chances of staying are. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf), 60 percent of the 204,000 people seeking protection who applied for asylum for the first time in the first eight months of this year came from just three countries: from Syria (60,000), from Afghanistan (36,000) and from Turkey (29,000). Thousands of them didn’t even have to cross the border: almost 12,000 asylum applications in the first half of the year concerned what are known in official jargon as “subsequent children” who were born as babies of refugees in Germany. Another 10,000 applicants were already living legally in the country with a residence permit or toleration.
Figures with which the Federal Ministry of the Interior answered a query from the left-wing Bundestag member Clara Bünger and which the South German newspaper available also show that the proportion of those whose application for protection was recognized by the office remains high. 71.3 percent of the people whose applications the Federal Office decided on in the first half of the year received protection status and are allowed to remain legally. For Syrians the rate is even 100 percent, for Afghans it is still 99.1. There are no deportations to either country because of the situation there.
“The state and municipalities are at their limit,” says Thuringia’s Prime Minister Ramelow
In contrast, the office only recognized 21.9 percent of Turkish asylum seekers. Georgians, Moldovans and Indians only received protection in a few individual cases; the Bamf rejected more than 99 percent of the applications. The federal government wants to classify Georgia and India as “safer countries of origin”. For asylum seekers from other countries that the FDP and CDU/CSU still want to see on this list, the protection rate was slightly higher: for Tunisians it was 4.5, for Algerians it was 6.1 and for Moroccans it was 15.6 percent.
Questioner Bünger thinks this is an “extremely high protection rate”. She calls debates about limiting refugee migration “unlawful, unrealistic and inhumane.” Instead, the reasons for fleeing must be addressed. “There is no alternative to this in terms of human rights,” says the left-wing MP.
Her party colleague Bodo Ramelow, on the other hand, is one of those who want to lead this debate. “The state and municipalities are at their limit,” said Thuringia’s Prime Minister Rhenish Post. However, Ramelow rejected controls at the German borders in the east, as vehemently demanded by Saxony’s Interior Minister Armin Schuster (CDU): “Deploying police in the Thuringian Forest just for show purposes doesn’t help.”