The Chapter: Reception Conditions in Germany contains sections on:
A. Access and forms of reception conditions
- Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions
- Forms and levels of material reception conditions
- Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions
- Freedom of movement
C. Employment and education
D. Health care
F. Information for asylum seekers and access to reception centres
Short overview of the reception system
In Germany, the Federal States are responsible for the reception of asylum seekers. Federal law provides the general legal framework for reception, including the obligation to stay in an initial reception centre, and the amount of material benefits, while the implementation as well as more detailed regulation is the remit of the Federal states. In general, the Asylum Act foresees a two-stage reception procedure. Initially, asylum seekers are housed in initial reception centres. In a second step, and if the asylum procedure is not terminated yet, asylum seekers are allocated to municipalities where they can be housed either in collective accommodation centres or in a decentralised manner, in flats.
According to the law, asylum seekers should be accommodated in an initial reception centre (Aufnahmeeinrichtung) for a maximum period of 18 months during the first stage of their asylum procedures. Many asylum seekers do not stay in the initial reception centres for the whole 18 months, since they are sent to other locations once a decision on the asylum application has been issued. As a general exception, however, asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are obliged to stay in initial reception centres for the whole duration of their procedures. Furthermore, Federal States may extend the maximum period to 24 months for certain groups of asylum seekers. The maximum period of stay for minors, their parents (or other adults entitled to custody) and their unmarried adult siblings is six months.
The initial reception centres are usually located on the same premises as the branch office of the BAMF. Following the initial reception period, most asylum seekers are sent to local accommodation centres where they have to stay for the remaining time of their procedures. The obligation to stay in such decentralised accommodation centres also applies to the whole length of possible appeal procedures, but there are regional differences with some municipalities also granting access to the regular housing market.
‘Arrival centres’ are a form of initial reception centres set up in different locations in Germany, where various authorities are located on the same premises and where processes such as registration, identity checks, the interview and the decision-making are ‘streamlined’.
In addition, ‘arrival, decision and return’ (Ankunft, Entscheidung, Rückführung, AnkER) centres were established in August 2018. The main purpose is to centralise all activities at one location and to shorten the asylum procedure, which is a concept that was already applied in the ‘arrival centres’ across Germany and in ‘transit centres’ set up in three locations in Bavaria (Manching/Ingolstadt, Regensburg, Deggendorf). Initially, most Federal States did not participate in the AnkER centres scheme with only three Federal States (Bavaria, Saxony and Saarland) participating in the pilot project to establish AnkER centres – in most cases simply by renaming their existing facilities. However, at the end of 2020, five additional Federal States (Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein) adjusted their reception facilities to the AnkER concept without necessarily using the politically contentious name ‘AnkER centre’ for these facilities. Following the elections in 2021 the Federal government declared that it would not pursue the AnkER centre concept anymore. However, in practice the centres continue to exist. To a parliamentary request the Federal government responded that accommodation facilities are run by the Federal states and that the Federal government is currently evaluating the cooperation with the Federal states on this issue.
In any case, both arrival centres and AnkER centres are part of administrative concepts which are not defined in the law and it is therefore up to the Federal States and the BAMF to define in individual agreements how these centres operate. This means that there are no general standards, but the common feature is that various processes such as registration, identity checks, the interview and the decision-making are supposed to be ‘streamlined’ both in the arrival centres and the AnkER-centres. However, fast-tracking of procedures in this manner must not be confused with the accelerated procedure which was introduced in March 2016 in the law but is not applied in practice much.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary questions by The Left 20/940, 7 March 2022.