Prioritisation of applications from certain countries was revoked in the second quarter of 2016. It was partially replaced by a system of “clustering” applications with the aim of prioritising the caseloads from countries of origin with a high and from those with a low protection rate. The clustering system was also abandoned in the first half of 2017. Since then, the branch offices of the BAMF and the arrival centres decide on their own whether they set any priority in dealing with caseloads, in particular dependent on availability of staff members with the necessary country expertise and availability of interpreters.
In August 2019 the Federal government reported that average duration of procedures at the BAMF had been reduced to 3.1 months in general and to 1.9 months in the AnKER-centres. However, this does not correspond with other official statistics which show that in the second quarter of 2019 the average duration of procedures was at 5.9 months in general and at 3 months in the AnKER-centres. As of mid-2019, the average duration of procedures was significantly below average for asylum seekers from the European “safe countries of origin” and from Georgia:
- Montenegro. 1.9 months
- Albania: Kosovo, North Macedonia: 2 months
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: 2.1 months
- Serbia: 2.3 months
- Georgia: 2.5 months
This seems to imply that asylum applications from “safe countries of origin” are fast-tracked, however this does not seem to be the case for the remaining two “safe countries” (Ghana and Senegal). Procedures at the BAMF for asylum seekers from these countries were not significantly faster than they were on average (5.3 months for Senegal, 5.4 months for Ghana).
On the other hand, average duration of procedures was considerably above average for asylum seekers from these countries of origin:
- Tunisia: 7.5 months
- Russian Federation: 8.5 months
- Somalia: 9.9 months
Due to a policy change in the first months of 2016, the BAMF since then has granted subsidiary protection instead of refugee protection in a previously unrecorded number of cases. This policy change affected Syrian nationals in particular, but also asylum seekers from Iraq or Eritrea. For instance, 95.8% of Syrians had been granted refugee status in 2015, this rate dropped to 56.4% in 2016 and to 35% in 2017. Since then, the percentage of refugee recognitions has increased again, reaching 49.5% in 2019 (compared to 41.6% in 2018).
Conversely, the rate of Syrians being granted subsidiary protection rose from 0.1% in 2015 to 41.2% in 2016, 56% in 2017. Since then, it has decreased to 39.7% in 2018 and 33.1% in 2019. The policy change at the BAMF coincided with a legislative change in March 2016, according to which Family Reunification was suspended for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection until March 2018. Family reunification is now possible for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection since August 2018, but limited to a monthly quota of 1,000 visas for relatives of this group. Tens of thousands of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have appealed against the authorities’ decisions in order to gain refugee status (“upgrade-appeals”). As a result, 15.399 “upgrade-appeals” filed by Syrian nationals were pending at the courts at the end of 2019. This represented roughly three quarters of the total number of upgrade-appeals (20,549) pending at courts.
In April 2019 it was reported that the BAMF had in some cases only granted a so-called humanitarian status (under Section 60 V of the Residence Act) instead of subsidiary protection to Syrian nationals. These decisions were supposedly based on new internal guidelines by the BAMF, which had concluded that possible risks upon return would in many cases only result from the poor general circumstances in Syria, rather than from deliberate acts of certain parties. Following media reports, decisions in which this legal question was relevant, were suspended by the BAMF. The Ministry of the Interior announced that it would discuss the matter with the Foreign Office. Finally, the Ministry announced that the internal guidelines would remain unchanged, so decision-making practice would, as a rule, also remain the same as before April 2019 – meaning that subsidiary protection was again granted in most cases of Syrian nationals who were not recognised as refugees.
Statistics for 2019 show, that the “humanitarian status” under Section 60 V of the Residence Act was indeed only granted in 489 cases of Syrian nationals in 2019, thus representing 3.2% of the total number of decisions. The overwhelming majority of Syrian applicants were granted asylum or refugee status (50.6%) or subsidiary protection (33.1%). Almost all rejections were rejections for formal reasons (inadmissibility or termination of the case). This means that in cases, in which the substance of the case was examined, 99.9% of Syrian nationals were granted some kind of protection status in 2019.
The legal debate concerning decision-making practices has focused on single male adults. The BAMF generally assumes that “healthy young men who are able to work” can be referred to an internal protection alternative in big cities in Afghanistan (Kabul, Herat oder Mazar-e Sharif) or in the provinces of Bamiyan and Panjshir. Because of the alleged existence of an internal protection alternative, the BAMF often does not fully examine the risks which an asylum seeker might face upon return. The BAMF decisions therefore have been criticised for regularly lacking a thorough examination of the individual circumstances of the case.
Appeals at Administrative Courts against such decisions still have a comparably high success rate, with 8,649 Afghan nationals being granted some form of protection in 2019 in court procedures, in comparison to 9,103 rejections of appeals and 7.627 court procedures which were abandoned for formal reasons. This represents a rate of 48.7% of at least partially successful appeals in those cases, in which the substance of the matter was examined. 27,070 appeals of Afghan nationals were pending at the court at the end of 2019.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 18/9415, 17 August 2016, 23.
 Information provided by the BAMF, 23 January 2018.
 Federal Government, Response to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/18498, 2 April 2020, 50.
 Federal Government, Response to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/18498, 2 April 2020, 3.
 For an overview of decision-making and case law in cases of Afghan asylum seekers, see Susanne Giesler and Christopher Wohnig, Uneinheitliche Entscheidungspraxis zu Afghanistan, June 2016, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2G1FSIq.
 Federal Government, Response to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/18498, 2 April 2020, 45.