• Annual Report
Back to Germany

Germany 2016/2017

The authorities made considerable efforts to house and process the large number of asylum-seekers who arrived in 2015. However, the government also adopted several laws to restrict the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, including on family reunification. The number of racist and xenophobic attacks on asylum shelters remained high and the authorities failed to adopt effective strategies to prevent them.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The number of new asylum-seekers decreased considerably compared to 2015. The government registered approximately 304,900 arrivals between January and November compared with 890,000 in 2015.

The authorities improved their capacity to process asylum applications throughout the year. Between January and November, approximately 702,490 individuals, many of whom had arrived in Germany the previous year, claimed asylum. The authorities made a decision in about 615,520 cases. The rate at which Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans received full refugee status decreased compared with the previous year; more individuals were granted subsidiary protection and fewer received full refugee status. The former status granted fewer rights, including with respect to family reunification. Between January and November, 59% of Syrian applicants obtained full refugee status compared with 99.6% in the same period of 2015.

In March, new amendments to asylum laws entered into force. The right to family reunification for individuals with subsidiary protection status was suspended until March 2018. A new fast-track procedure for assessing asylum applications from a variety of categories of applicants, including asylum-seekers from countries deemed to be “safe”, was introduced without providing for sufficient guarantees to ensure access to a fair asylum procedure. At the end of the year, a law defining Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as “safe” countries of origin was pending before the Federal Council. The new fast-track procedure had not been implemented by the end of the year.

In May, Parliament passed the first ever law on integration for refugees and asylum-seekers. The law aimed at creating employment and educational opportunities for refugees and imposed on them the obligation to follow integration courses. It also allowed authorities of the federal states to impose restrictions on where refugees could reside, tightened conditions for issuing residence permits and introduced new benefit cuts for those not complying with the new rules.

Until 19 December, Germany relocated 640 refugees from Greece and 455 from Italy. As part of the EU-Turkey Deal, Germany accepted the transfer of 1,060 Syrian refugees from Turkey. Despite the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, authorities forcibly returned more than 60 Afghan nationals whose asylum applications had been rejected. In 2015, fewer than 10 unsuccessful Afghan asylum-seekers were forcibly returned.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities continued to fail to effectively investigate allegations of ill-treatment by the police and did not establish any independent complaints mechanism to investigate those allegations.

At the end of the year, the governments of North-Rheine Westphalia and Sachsen Anhalt were planning to introduce the obligation for police officers to wear identity badges while on duty.

The Joint Commission of the National Agency for the Prevention of Torture – Germany’s preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture – remained understaffed and underfinanced.

In April, the Hannover Prosecution Office closed the investigation into allegations of ill-treatment by a federal police officer against two Afghan and Moroccan refugees in the holding cells of the federal police at Hannover’s main train station in 2014. In September, the Celle Upper Regional Court rejected the request introduced by one of the victims to reopen the investigation.

Discrimination

The second Committee of Inquiry, established by Parliament in October 2015, pursued its investigation into some of the authorities’ failures to investigate the racist and xenophobic crimes perpetrated against members of ethnic minorities by the far-right group National Socialist Underground between 2000 and 2007. No official inquiry was launched into the potential role of institutional racism behind those failures, despite the 2015 recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dozens of anti-refugee and anti-Muslim demonstrations were staged throughout the country. In the first nine months of the year, authorities registered 813 crimes against asylum shelters. In the same period, 1,803 crimes against asylum-seekers were registered by the authorities, 254 of them resulted in bodily injuries. The authorities failed to put in place an adequate national strategy to prevent attacks on asylum shelters.

Civil society organizations continued to report discriminatory identity checks by police on members of ethnic and religious minorities.

In June, the Federal Court of Justice rejected the request of an intersex person to be legally registered according to a third gender option. The applicant’s appeal was pending before the Federal Constitutional Court at the end of the year.

Counter-terror and security

In October, Parliament passed a new law on surveillance that granted the Federal Intelligence Service broad powers to subject non-EU citizens to surveillance without effective judicial oversight and for a wide range of purposes, including national security. In August, several UN special procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, expressed concern regarding the negative impact of the law on freedom of expression and the lack of judicial oversight.

In April, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that some of the surveillance powers of the Federal Criminal Police Office, which had been introduced in 2009 to counteract terrorism and crimes more generally, were unconstitutional. In particular, some of the measures did not ensure the respect of the right to privacy. Those provisions remained in force pending their amendment.

Arms trade

In March, the government put in place the necessary legal framework for selective post-shipment controls to improve the monitoring of German exports of war weapons and specific types of firearms to ensure compliance with end-use certificates and that they were not used to commit human rights violations. Under these controls, the whereabouts of exported war weapons would be checked post-shipment in the recipient countries. Governments receiving German military equipment would have to declare in an end-use statement that they agree to on-the-spot controls. Such end-use statements were signed for at least four licensed small arms exports. The government was implementing the first pilot phase of the new mechanism at the end of the year.

Corporate accountability

In August, the Regional Court of Dortmund accepted to exercise jurisdiction over a legal claim brought in 2015 by four Pakistani victims against the German clothing retailer KiK and granted them legal aid. In September 2012, 260 workers died and 32 were seriously injured in a fire that destroyed one of the main textile factories in Pakistan supplying KiK.

In December, the government adopted a National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, the Plan did not include adequate measures to comply with all standards set out in the Principles and did not ensure that German business enterprises exercise due diligence to respect human rights.

You can shine a light on human rights abuses.

With your support, we can expose events and hold governments and companies to account.

Donate today

You can shine a light on human rights abuses. -

With your support, we can expose events and hold governments and companies to account.

Get the Amnesty International Report 2016/17