Forms and levels of material reception conditions

Germany

Country Report: Forms and levels of material reception conditions Last updated: 30/11/20

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Assistance under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act generally consists of “basic benefits” (Grundleistungen). These are meant to cover the costs for food, accommodation, heating, clothing, personal hygiene and consumer goods for the household (notwendiger Bedarf), as well as the personal needs of everyday life, such as public transport and mobile phones (notwendiger persönlicher Bedarf)[1] – the latter is often referred to as “pocket money”. In addition, the necessary “benefits in case of illness, pregnancy and birth” have to be provided.[2] “Other benefits” can be granted in individual cases (upon application) if they are necessary to safeguard the means of existence or the state of health.[3]

In 2019, the amount of benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act was adjusted for the first time since March 2016, even though the law foresees an annual adjustment of rates. This resulted in a reduction of benefits for many asylum seekers, inter alia by excluding certain costs from the basic benefits which were considered to be unnecessary for asylum seekers compared to recipients of regular social benefits (e.g. expenditures for leisure, entertainment, culture). Additionally, asylum seekers who live in apartments on their own no longer receive an automatic reimbursement of costs related to electricity. Instead, they need to apply for such reimbursement individually. Benefits were also reduced for adults under 25 who live with their parents.[4]

One of the most controversial changes introduced in 2019 has been the adjustment of benefits for single adults who are required to stay in an accommodation centre. Whereas they used to be treated in the same manner as single adults living outside of these centres, they now only receive an allowance that amounts to benefits that one receives when living together with another adult, spouse or partner.[5] As a result, their monthly allowance was increased by €1 only. To justify this change, the government argued that asylum seekers living in an accommodation centre can be expected to run a common household similarly to adult partners, which was heavily criticised by different actors. Several Social Courts have found this change of practice likely to be unconstitutional. In summary proceedings they have ordered the authorities to temporarily pay the same benefits as received by single adults outside of accommodation centres.[6] However, two Appeal Social Courts have overruled such decisions arguing that courts cannot order the government to temporarily pay higher benefits in summary proceedings without a statutory basis.[7] They did not decide on the constitutionality of the provision, which would require the intervention of the Federal Constitutional Court on the matter.

Authorities at the regional and local level have important discretionary powers when deciding in what form basic benefits should be provided. Therefore, the provision of benefits in cash depends on local conditions and policies. According to the law, asylum seekers who are accommodated in reception centres shall receive non-cash benefits only. This includes “pocket money” for their personal needs “as long as this is possible within the acceptable administrative burden”.[8] In practice, however, they will often receive the pocket money in cash. For asylum seekers in other (decentralised) collective accommodation centres, non-cash benefits “can” be provided “if this is necessary under the circumstances”.[9] The same applies for asylum seekers living on their own, with the exception that they have to be provided with pocket money in cash.  For those living outside of reception centres, the costs for accommodation (rent), heating and household goods have to be provided on top of the above benefits as far as it is “necessary and reasonable”.[10]

After a second adjustment in January 2020, the current monthly rates are as follows:

 

Basic benefits for asylum seekers

 

Single adult

Single adult in accommodation centre

Adult partners (each)

Member of household

18-24

Member of household

14-17

Member of household

6-13

Member of household

0-5

“Pocket money”

€153

€139

€139

€122

€80

€99

€86

Further basic benefits (excl. costs related to accommodation

€198

€177

€177

€158

€200

€174

€132

Total

€351

€316

€316

€280

€280

€273

€218

Regular Social Benefits

€432

€389

€345

€328

€308

€250

As indicated in the table above, rates under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act amount to a level of about 80% of regular social benefits – and less than 75% for single adults living in accommodation centres.

Before the amendments were introduced in 2019, asylum seekers were usually granted access to regular social benefits after 15 months of benefits received under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. This meant that, after this period, higher benefits were paid and certain restrictions of the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act no longer applied, in particular the limited access to health care. However, the waiting period to access regular social benefits was extended by an additional 3 months in 2019.[11] Consequently, asylum seekers now have to wait up to 18 months before they are entitled to regular social benefits. Even when receiving regular social benefits, however, single adults in accommodation centres will continue to receive the lower rates for adult partners.[12]



[1] Section 3(1) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[2] Section 4 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act; for access to health care see below.

[3] Section 6 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[4]  Sections 3a(1)(3)(a) and 3a(2)(3)(a) Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act.

[5] Sections 3a(1)(2)(b) and 3a(2)(2)(b) Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act.

[6] Social Court of Frankfurt, Decision S 30 AY 26/19 ER, 14 January 2020; Social Court of Landshut, Decision S 11 AY 3/20 ER, 28 January 2020; Social Court of Freiburg, Decision S 5 AY 5235/19 ER, 20 January 2020; Social court of Hannover, Decision S 53 AY 107/19 ER, 20 December 2019.

[7] Regional Social Court of Baden-Württemberg, Decision L 7 AY 4273/19 ER-B, 13 February 2020 and Regional Social Court of Berlin-Brandenburg, Decision L 15 AY 2/20 B ER, 2 February 2020.

[8] Section 3(2) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[9] Section 3(3) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[10] Section 3(3) 3rd Sentence Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[11] Section 2(1) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[12] Section 2 (1) 4th Sentence Number 1 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

 

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