Provision of information on the procedure

Germany

Country Report: Provision of information on the procedure Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration Visit Website

According to Section 24(1) of the Asylum Act, the BAMF:

“… [S]hall inform the foreigner in a language he can reasonably be supposed to understand about the course of the procedure and about his rights and duties, especially concerning deadlines and the consequences of missing a deadline.”

 

Written information

 

Various other sections of the Asylum Act also contain obligations on the authorities to inform asylum seekers on certain aspects of the procedure. Accordingly, asylum seekers receive various information sheets when reporting to the authorities and/or upon arrival at the initial reception centre,[1] including the following:

  • An information sheet on the rights and duties during the procedure and on the proceedings in general (“Belehrung nach § 10 AsylG und allgemeine Verfahrenshinweise”);
  • An instruction on the obligation to comply immediately with a referral to the competent branch office of the BAMF and to appear in person immediately or an a date determined for the formal registration of the asylum application (“Belehrung nach § 14 Abs. 1 und § 23 Abs. 2 AsylG”);[2]
  • An instruction on the obligation to comply immediately with a referral to the initial reception centre (“Belehrung nach § 20 Abs. 1 AsylG”)[3];
  • An instruction on the obligation to comply with a decision to be referred to another reception centre, including the obligation to register with the authorities in case of such a referral (“Belehrung nach § 22 Abs. 3 AsylG”).[4]

These information sheets are available in German and around 45 other languages.

In addition, other leaflets and publications by the BAMF are available in several languages, although they are not necessarily handed out to all asylum seekers. These include:

  • Information on the appointment for the interview in the asylum procedure (Informationsblatt zum Anhörungstermin),[5]
  • Information on the asylum application (informationsblatt zur Asylantragstellung).[6]
  • The stages of the German asylum procedure (Ablauf des deutschen Asylverfahrens).[7]

Furthermore, asylum seekers are handed out instructions concerning the Eurodac Regulation (in accordance with Article 18 of the Eurodac Regulation) and on the data collected in the course of the asylum procedure by the BAMF. These instructions are available in 44 languages.

In addition, a personal interview as foreseen in Article 5 of the Dublin III Regulation has to be conducted. This interview shall contribute to a correct understanding of the written information leaflet.[8]

The applicant has to sign an acknowledgment of the receipt of the information leaflets. In some reception centres, further information is handed out or made available through notice boards or posters (e.g. information on the office hours of authorities, NGOs and other institutions), but there is no systematic practice for the distribution of such additional information.  

It has been a long-standing criticism from lawyers and NGOs that both the written instructions and the oral briefings provided by the Federal Office are “rather abstract and standardised”.[9] In particular, they are not considered suitable to render the significance and content of questions during interviews sufficiently understandable to applicants. In the “Memorandum to enhance fair and diligent asylum procedures in Germany”, published by an alliance of 12 German NGOs in November 2016, several deficiencies were identified in the context of the right to information.[10]

 

Oral information

 

The so-called “Orderly-Return-Law”, in force since 21 August 2019,[11] established a new provision in the Asylum Act (Section 12a) to regulate the counselling on asylum procedures (Asylverfahrensberatung).
This section reads:[12]

“The Federal Office (BAMF) provides an independent state-run counselling service on asylum procedures, participation at this service is voluntary for the asylum seekers. The service is provided in two stages. The first stage consists of group lectures in which all asylum seekers are given information on the course of the asylum procedure and on return options, before the application is made. The second stage consists of individual counselling on asylum procedures which is provided in individual appointments and is carried out either by the Federal Office or by welfare organisations.”

Welfare organisations and other non-governmental organisations had been advocating for independent asylum procedure counselling for many years,[13] and in 2018 the coalition agreement between the parties that formed the new German government indeed called for independent and nationwide asylum procedure counselling services. However, the wording of the new provision has now introduced the concept of an “independent state-run” service and the government insists that this advice service must be offered by the BAMF exclusively. Therefore, the same authority that decides on the asylum applications is now obliged by law to offer “independent” advice on procedures. The wording of the new provision has been introduced “at the last minute” (i.e. after the hearing of experts in the parliamentary committee had taken place) and therefore the new provision was pushed through parliament almost without debate.[14] The government failed to provide an explanation on the wording of the new provision and how the latter should be interpreted.

Following a pilot phase, which took place in certain locations since August 2018, the BAMF is working on the gradual introduction of its asylum counselling throughout the country since January 2020. Before beginning their deployment, the BAMF's asylum procedure advisers attend a one-week training course. During their assignment, they are separated from the department carrying out the asylum procedure in organisational terms. They receive professional support from the "quality" department. According to the BAMF’s website, initial results indicate that asylum procedure counselling “helps improve compliance with the rule of law, as well as contributing to the equity, quality and efficiency of the asylum procedure”.[15]

The new BAMF “counselling” sessions represent an improvement compared to the situation prior to August 2019 when no information was systematically provided to asylum seekers.[16] Nevertheless, the new system is heavily criticised by NGOs as group counselling sessions tend to be organised within a very short period before the personal interview with the BAMF and the information provided is limited (i.e. the BAMF tends to provide general information on the asylum procedure, sometimes focusing only on asylum seekers’ obligations and also on information which has nothing to do with the procedure, such as the so-called “return options”).[17]

While the law does foresee the advice services of the second stage to be carried out by welfare organisations, the government has made it clear that it does not intend to commission NGOs to carry out an advice service on its behalf. Rather, it claims that welfare organisations are free to run their own  services alongside the counselling offered by the BAMF.[18] At the same time, NGOs have voiced  concerns that funding of independent advice centers could be jeopardised as they might be replaced by the BAMF services. In a press release of November 2019, the “AMBA”-network,[19] which has been providing independent advice services in several reception centres in Lower Saxony for many years, referred to government officials who had stated that the BAMF was willing to cooperate with NGO advice services, but that public funding would not be available any longer for NGO advice services, since advice on asylum procedures was now considered to be a government task. In particular, funding which had been provided through the AMIF programme, was now at risk, according to AMBA.[20] The government confirmed in May 2020 that counseling services by NGOs would no longer be funded through the AMIF programme.[21]

Another point of criticism is that the law does not specify when the individual counselling of the so-called second stage is supposed to take place. Thus, it is not guaranteed that the individual counselling will take place before the asylum interview. This may contradict the purpose of individual asylum counselling whose core function lies in the preparation of the asylum seeker for his or her interview.[22]

In addition to the counselling services as regulated by the asylum act, asylum seekers are orally informed about “the significance and the proceedings of the interview” and they are instructed about their rights and obligations at the beginning of the interview.[23] However, the oral briefing at the beginning of the interview is described as “formulaic” or “cursory”. In some cases, it is carried out by translators only, so the content of the briefing cannot be controlled.[24]

Finally, access to information at the airport is described as particularly difficult, inter alia due to the speed of the procedure. Asylum seekers reportedly undergo the airport procedure without understanding the applicable rules and steps.[25]



[1] BAMF, DA-Asyl (Dienstanweisung Asylverfahren) – Belehrungen (internal directives of the BAMF), parts of these directives, as at October 2016, were made available by the BAMF upon request: BAMF, Email of 27 February 2017.

[2]Available on the BAMF website at https://bit.ly/2U0lyyv.

[3] Available on the BAMF website at https://bit.ly/39Lf2Cy.

[4] Available on the BAMF website at https://bit.ly/2xyIVrx.

[5] Available on the BAMF website at https://bit.ly/2UiWc0k.

[6]Available on the BAMF website at https://bit.ly/3bok08E.

[7] Available in English at https://bit.ly/3drFPWF.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Amnesty International et al., ed. Memorandum zur derzeitigen Situation des deutschen Asylverfahrens (Memoranda on current situation of the German asylum procedure), 2005, 21.

[10] Memorandum Alliance, Memorandum für faire und sorgfältige Asylverfahren in Deutschland. Standards zur Gewährleistung der asylrechtlichen Verfahrensgarantien, November 2016, 14.

[11] Second law to enhance enforcement of the obligation to leave, 20 August 2019, Official Gazette I, 1294.

[12] Non-literal translation by the author.

[13] Wiebke Judith, Druck auf die Länder? Lex AnkER im „II. Hau-Ab-Gesetz“ in: Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration (ed), Das Migrationspaket: Beilage zum Asylmagazin 8-9/2019, September 2017, 75.

[14] Preliminary remarks to information request by The Left, 26 May 2020, 19/19535, 2-3.

[15] BAMF, Voluntary, independent, state asylum procedure counselling, 10th August 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2NTfUeW.

[16] Markus Kraft, ‘Die ANKER-Einrichtung Oberfranken’, Asylmagazin 10-11/2018, 353, available in German at https://bit.ly/2P36MEe.

[17 ECRE, The AnkER centres Implications for asylum procedures, reception and return, April 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2W7dICZ.

[18] Federal government, response to information request by The Left, 26 May 2020, 19/19535, 3.

[19] AMBA (Aufnahmemanagement und Beratung für Asylsuchende in Niedersachsen) is a network of the welfare organisations Caritas, Diakonie, several local NGOs and the Refugee Council of Lower Saxony. Over the years, member organisation of the network have run advice services for asylum seekers in reception centres at Friedland, Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Oldenburg and Bramsche; further information available at: https://bit.ly/31ZDwae.

[20] Koordination AMBA: Unabhängige Asylverfahrensberatung vor dem Aus? 12 November 2019, available in German at https://bit.ly/2W3ajY6.

[21] Federal Government, response to information request by The Left, 26 May 2020, 19/19535, 8.

[22] Wiebke Judith, Druck auf die Länder? Lex AnkER im „II. Hau-Ab-Gesetz“ in: Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration (ed), Das Migrationspaket: Beilage zum Asylmagazin 8-9/2019, September 2017, 76.

[23] BAMF, Das deutsche Asylverfahren – ausführlich erklärt. Zuständigkeiten, Verfahren, Statistiken, Rechtsfolgen (The German asylum procedures – an elaborate explanation. Responsibilities, Procedures, Statistics, Consequences), December 2012. 17.

[24] Memorandum Alliance, Memorandum für faire und sorgfältige Asylverfahren in Deutschland. Standards zur Gewährleistung der asylrechtlichen Verfahrensgarantien, November 2016, 14.

[25] ECRE, Airport procedures in Germany Gaps in quality and compliance with guarantees, April 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2QgOmAH.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation