In general, 3 types of accommodation for asylum seekers can be distinguished:
- Initial reception centres, including particular types of centres such as arrival centres, special reception centres and AnkER-centres;
- Collective accommodation centres;
- Decentralised accommodation.
Emergency shelters were used in particular in 2015 and 2016 but have mostly been closed down since. One notable exception was the reception facility at the Berlin arrival centre which continued to operate on the premises of the former airport of Tempelhof where newly arrived asylum seekers were still accommodated, sometimes for several weeks, under conditions described as “inhumane” by NGOs. The facility at Tempelhof was finally closed in 2019 and replaced by a new arrival centre in Berlin-Reinickendorf. As of January 2022, it was reported that the State government plans to re-open the Tempelhof facility to accommodate refugees from Afghanistan, since the government decided in December to allow the entry and residence of 500 persons from Afghanistan for humanitarian reasons (see also Section on Family Reunification).
Moreover, a waiting room (Warteraum) in Erding was another unique facility, which served as a first arrival and distribution centre where persons could stay for 72 hours. It was closed at the end of 2019, and permanently dismantled at the end of 2021, after having been in stand-by mode since start of 2020.
Initial reception centres
Following the reform of June 2019, asylum seekers are generally obliged to stay in an initial reception centre for a period of up to 18 months after their application has been lodged (Aufnahmeeinrichtung). An obligation to stay in these centres for a maximum of 24 months can be imposed by Federal States since July 2017 (see Section Freedom of movement). Furthermore, asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are obliged to stay there for the whole duration of their procedures.
The Federal States are required to establish and maintain the initial reception centres. Accordingly, there is at least one such centre in each of Germany’s 16 Federal States with most Federal States having several initial reception facilities.
Initial reception centres are assigned to a branch office of the BAMF, or combined with a branch office to constitute an arrival centre or AnkER centre. At the beginning of 2022, out of 58 branch offices listed on the BAMF website 18 were integrated in arrival centres in 12 different Federal States, and eight were part of AnkER centres in three Federal States.
Since 2016, several reception centres have either been opened as arrival centres (Ankunftszentren) or existing facilities have been transformed into arrival centres. In these centres, the BAMF and other relevant authorities are grouped together and apply fast-track processing. The concept of “arrival centres” is not established in law, therefore technically the initial reception centres are still functioning as part of the arrival centres, together with a branch office of the BAMF and other relevant authorities. As of January 2022, the BAMF lists 18 arrival centres which are located across 12 Federal States (down from 22 in 2018):
- Baden-Württemberg: Heidelberg
- North Rhine-Westphalia: Bielefeld, Bonn, Mönchengladbach, Unna
- Saxony: Chemnitz, Leipzig
- Lower Saxony: Bad Fallingbostel, Bramsche
- Saxony-Anhalt: Halberstadt
- Hessen: Gießen
- Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Schwerin
- Thuringia: Suhl
- Rhineland-Palatinate: Trier
As of May 2021, a total of eight AnkER or were established in Germany in Bavaria, Saxony and Saarland. In addition, eight “functionally equivalent centres” existed, some of which are also classified as arrival centres 
Since August 2018, Bavaria has established and/or rebranded all facilities run by the seven districts of the Federal State as AnkER centres. These included seven AnkER centres and a number of facilities attached thereto (Dependancen), the latter serving only for accommodation of asylum seekers to avoid overcrowding. All steps of the procedure are carried out in the main AnkER centres. The AnkER centre in Donauwörth was closed at the end of 2019 after regional politicians in the district of Swabia opted for a more decentralised approach to accommodate of asylum seekers.
|AnkER centres & Dependancen in Germany|
|Federal State||AnkER centre||Location of AnKER Dependancen|
|Bavaria||Manching/Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria)||Ingolstadt: 3 locations
Munich: 4 locations, incl. 1 „brief admission“ centre
|Deggendorf (Lower Bavaria)
|Regensburg: Zeißstraße (Upper Palatinate)||Regensburg: 3 locations
|Bamberg (Upper Franconia)||–|
|Zirndorf (Middle Franconia)||Nuremberg: 3 locations
|Geldersheim/Niederwerrn (Lower Franconia)||–|
|Augsburg (Swabia)||Augsburg: 5 locations
Collective accommodation centres
Once the Obligation to Stay in Initial Reception Centres ends, asylum seekers should, “as a rule”, be accommodated in “collective accommodation” centres (Gemeinschaftsunterkünfte, GU). These accommodation centres are usually located within the same Federal State as the initial reception centre to which the asylum seeker was sent for the initial reception period.
Prior to the introduction of AnkER centres, when the Federal State of Bavaria operated “transit centres”, it had been reported that persons who had to be transferred out of the transit centre to GU were in reality not physically moved out of the centre. Instead a section of the facility was reclassified as GU and people stayed there; in some cases even the same room was requalified as such, which meant that they formally were considered to have left the transit centre. Nevertheless, they remained subject to the same house rules of the transit centre.
According to the “geographical restriction”, asylum seekers are obliged to stay in the district to which they have been allocated for the whole duration of their procedure, i.e. including appeal proceedings (see Freedom of Movement). The Federal States are entitled by law to organise the distribution and the accommodation of asylum seekers within their territories. In most cases, states have referred responsibility for accommodation following the initial reception period to municipalities. The responsible authorities can decide at their discretion whether the management of the centres is carried out by the local governments themselves or whether this task is transferred to NGOs or to facility management companies.
Statistics on the year 2021 are not available. For the year 2020, the German Federal Statistical Office recorded the following numbers for accommodation of “recipients of benefits under the Asylum Seeker’s Benefits Act”. It has to be noted that this law applies not only to asylum seekers, but also to people with a “tolerated stay” (Duldung) and even to certain groups of people who have been granted a temporary residence permit. Among these groups, there are many people who have been staying in Germany for several years and therefore are more likely to live in decentralised accommodation than asylum seekers whose application is still pending:
|Recipients of asylum seekers benefits in the Federal States: 31 December 2020|
|Federal State||Initial reception centres||Collective accommodation||Decentralised accommodation||Total|
Source: Statistisches Bundesamt, Empfängerinnen und Empfänger nach Bundesländern: https://bit.ly/2UtNxZW. This includes both asylum seekers and people with tolerated stay (Duldung). The Federal Statistical Office notes that due to reporting problems in North Rhine-Westphalie, there is an undercount of about 6,800 cases.
Although Section 53 of the Asylum Act provides that asylum seekers “should, as a rule, be housed in collective accommodation” following the initial reception period, the above figures show that policies vary considerably between the Federal States. In some states such as Bavaria, Hamburg or Hesse, most asylum seekers are indeed living in this type of accommodation. In contrast, there are other Federal States, including Rhineland-Palatinate, Lower Saxony or Schleswig-Holstein, in which the majority of recipients of asylum seekers’ benefits are staying in so-called “decentralised accommodation”, so usually in apartments of their own. The latter might also at least partially be the result of authorities generally being more restrictive when it comes to issuing (long-term) holders of a tolerated stay with residence permits, which would entitle them to regular social benefits.
 Süddeutsche.de, ‘Warteraum Asyl außer Betrieb‘, 17 December 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38A98Eu.
 Section 47(1) Asylum Act.
 Section 47(1b) Asylum Act.
 Section 44(1) Asylum Act.
 BAMF, Locations, available atwww.bamf.de https://bit.ly/3dFTd8w, lists 58 “branch offices” and “regional offices” , with some offices having both functions. Some of the centres listed as “arrival centres” are also considered functionally equivalent to “AnkER-centres”, according to the BAMF (see BAMF, Evaluation of AnkER Facilities and Functionally Equivalent Facilities, Research Report 37 of the BAMF Research Centre, 2021, 17 and 22, available in English at: https://bit.ly/3FgxXnq.
 BAMF, Locations, available at: https://bit.ly/2Z74Uko.
 Federal Government, Response to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/30711, 15 June 2021, 28.
 Süddeutsche Zeitung, Das sind die sieben neuen Ankerzentren in Bayern, 1 August 2018, available at https://bit.ly/2MeAYKy.
 Section 53 Asylum Act.
 Section 10 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
 An analysis of these figures cannot be conclusive since it is complicated by apparent inconsistencies in the statistics. For example, it is unlikely that at a given date more than 10,000 asylum seekers were staying in the initial reception centres of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Apparently, other types of state-run accommodation were included in this figure as well.
 It is possible, though, that some Federal States subsume smaller types of collective accommodation under “decentralised” housing as well. Furthermore, some states seem to have changed their preferences compared to previous years, as the comparison to the figures of 2018 indicates (see AIDA, Country Report Germany – Update on the year 2019, July 2020, 88-89).