AfD, CDU, SPD: Where do German parties stand on refugees, asylum and immigration?

Since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the borders to refugees in 2015, asylum and immigration topics have dominated German politics. Where do the right-wing AfD and the mainstream parties stand on these issues?

Over the past two years, Germany has made headlines around the world for letting over a million refugees into the country. Yet, it also has comparatively restrictive immigration laws and naturalization processes. Now, the future of Germany's asylum and migration policy will be decided in Sunday's Bundestag election. Here's what each of the parties expected to make it into the national parliament stand for:

Alternative for Germany (AfD)

Upper limit for asylum seekers: The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) wants to go beyond an annual upper limit on asylum seekers. It wants a "zero immigration" policy — a cap on all immigration unless deportations of rejected asylum seekers result in a net immigration of zero or lower. They also want to close the German border to stop what they view as "unregulated mass migration."

Family reunifications: The AfD is against all types of family reunification, regardless of protection status.

Deportations: The AfD seeks to radically increase the number of deportations of rejected asylum seekers, as well as reform the current asylum law laid out in the German constitution to ensure a smaller number of people are granted asylum.

Immigration law: "That [the state itself] can determine quality and quantity of migration to be key characteristics of state sovereignty," is one of the few statements the AfD makes on how legal migration could be regulated in its party program, focusing largely on what it perceives are faults in the current migration system. Many AfD members view migrants from Muslim-majority countries and Africa in particular as a potential threat to the security or stability of Germany.

Deutschland AfD-Pressekonferenz mit Weidel und Gauland

AfD top candidates Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland have faced criticism for their anti-immigrant platform

Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU)

Upper limit for asylum seekers: Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU) opposes an upper limit for how many refugees can enter Germany each year, though its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has endorsed a limit of 200,000 new asylum seekers per year. The joint party election program of CDU and CSU does not mention such a limit. 

Family reunifications: While the party election program of the CDU/CSU does not comment on refugee family reunifications, some party members would reportedly like to limit the number of refugees' relatives that may come to Germany each year.

People who have been granted refugee status can currently apply for close family members to join them in Germany. This applies to their spouses; their children (minors (including any official caretaker of the minors) and older unmarried children); as well as their parents.


By the planeload

On September 12, 2017, a flight left Germany's Düsseldorf airport for Afghanistan, carrying 15 rejected asylum seekers in what is the first group deportation to the country since a deadly car bomb blast near the German embassy in Kabul in late May. The opposition Greens and Left party slammed the resumption of deportations to Afghanistan as "cynical."


Fighting for a chance

In March 2017, high school students in Cottbus made headlines with a campaign to save three Afghan classmates from deportation. They demonstrated, collected signatures for a petition and raised money for an attorney to contest the teens' asylum rejections - safe in the knowledge that their friends, among them Wali (above), can not be deported as long as proceedings continue.


'Kabul is not safe'

"Headed toward deadly peril," this sign reads at a demonstration in Munich airport in February. Protesters often show up at German airports where the deportations take place. Several collective deportations left Germany in December 2016, and between January and May 2017. Protesters believe that Afghanistan is too dangerous for refugees to return.


From Würzburg to Kabul

Badam Haidari, in his mid-30s, spent seven years in Germany before he was deported to Afghanistan in January 2017. He had previously worked for USAID in Afghanistan and fled the Taliban, whom he still fears years later – hoping that he will be able to return to Germany after all.


Persecuted minorities

In January of the same year, officials deported Afghan Hindu Samir Narang from Hamburg, where he had lived with his family for four years. Afghanistan, the young man told German public radio, "is not safe." Minorities from Afghanistan who return because asylum is denied face religious persecution in the Muslim country. Deportation to Afghanistan is "life-threatening" to Samir, says


Reluctant returnees

Rejected asylum seekers deported from Germany to Kabul, with 20 euros in their pockets from the German authorities to tide them over at the start, can turn to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for assistance. Funded by the German Foreign Office, members of the IPSO international psychosocial organization counsel the returnees.

The current CDU/CSU- and SPD-led coalition government has put family reunification for those who receive subsidiary protection - the permission to remain in Germany as a non-refugee or asylum recipient due to the threat of serious harm at home - on hold until March 2018. While Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière of the CDU wants to extend this moratorium, Chancellor Merkel said she would make a decision on the issue after the election.

Deportations: The CDU/CSU wants to increase deportations of rejected asylum seekers and tighten the rules for rejected asylum seekers, for example, by extending a pre-deportation custody of up to 10 days. The question whether conflict-ridden Afghanistan can be considered safe enough to deport people back to has been fiercely debated. The CDU/CSU believes that some regions of Afghanistan are safe to deport to.

Immigration law: The CSU/CDU wants a "skilled workers immigration law" that requires migrants to find a job in Germany ahead of getting their visa to prove that they can cover their living expenses while in Germany.

Binz Wahlkampf CDU - Merkel

Merkel's CDU is against limiting the number of asylum seekers entering Germany, but the CSU disagrees

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

Upper limit for asylum seekers: The SPD is against limiting the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter Germany or the EU. "What would we do with the first refugee to reach the European border once the quota is reached? Would we send them back to a certain death? As long as this question hasn't been answered, a debate about [an upper limit] does not make sense," SPD leader Martin Schulz told German daily Welt.

Family reunifications: The SPD wants to end the moratorium on family renunciations for subsidiary protection recipients.

Deportations: In its party program, the SPD says it wants to increase voluntary returns of rejected asylum seekers and to enforce deportations more thoroughly. It also wants to enable rejected asylum applicants who have been law-abiding residents in Germany for two years, and who are currently employed or in school, to stay in the country legally. They are against deportations to Afghanistan.

Immigration law: The SPD wants to introduce a new immigration law similar to the Canadian immigration system. Criteria such as degrees, job experience, language skills and the like would be taken into consideration to decide on who gets to migrate to Germany. They are for a flexible quota that determines how many people get to come to Germany each year based on the current job market situation. "If you want to stem illegal migration, you have to create legal ways to immigrate," the SPD says in its party program.

Deutschland Schulz auf Sommertour in Sachsen-Anhalt mit Karamba Diaby

Martin Schulz and the SPD want a point based immigration system (pictured with fellow SPD-politician Karamba Diaby)

Green Party

Upper limit for asylum seekers: The Green Party is opposed to an upper limit for refugees, saying that it endorses "an unlimited preservation of the individual fundamental and human right."

Family reunifications: The Greens want to resume family renunciations those with subsidiary protection immediately.

Deportations: Greens believe that the past two years have seen an "inhumane tightening of asylum laws." In their party program, they state that they want to focus on increasing voluntary returns. They believe Afghanistan is not safe enough to deport rejected asylum seekers to Kabul.

Read more: What is the status of German deportations to Afghanistan?

Immigration law: Like the SPD, the Greens want to introduce a point-based immigration law, similar to the Canadian immigration policy.

The Greens want the children of legal migrants or refugees born in Germany to automatically be granted citizenship. They also want those whose asylum in Germany has run out to be able to shift their status from "refugee" to "migrant" without having to leave the country and file for a visa if they would qualify for a visa under the point system, as does the FDP.

Immigration law: Like the SPD, the Greens want to introduce a point-based immigration law, similar to the Canadian immigration policy.

The Greens want the children of legal migrants or refugees born in Germany to automatically be granted citizenship. They also want those whose asylum in Germany has run out to be able to shift their status from "refugee" to "migrant" without having to leave the country and file for a visa if they would qualify for a visa under the point system, as does the FDP.

Deutschland Kleiner Parteitag der Grünen

The Greens want to stop deportations to Afghanistan

Left Party

Upper limit for asylum seekers: The Left party is strongly opposed to an upper limit. They regard some asylum laws and regulations passed by the current government as a threat to the "fundamental right to asylum." In their party program, they point out that some countries, such as Ghana, Serbia and Senegal, have been declared "safe countries of origin," with fast-track asylum procedures for people from countries whose applications are seen as likely to be rejected, as particularly objectionable.

Family reunifications: The Left party not only wants to end the moratorium for those with "subsidiary protection," they also argue that non-immediate family members should also be allowed to move to Germany. Currently, only their spouses, their children (minors (including any official caretaker of the miniors) and older unmarried children) as well as their parents are allowed to join someone who has been granted asylum in Germany.

Deportations: The Left party demands a "immediate stop of all deportations" and the right to stay for everybody.

Immigration law: In its party program, the Left says it wants a "humane … framework for immigration into the EU." They are against any regulations that involve quotas or point systems because they view them as overly selective and capitalistic.

DW BTW-Reise Chorweiler Güldane Tokyürek Die Linke

The Left is campaigning on a platform that includes a stop to all deportations

Free Democratic Party (FDP)

Upper limit for asylum seekers: The free marketeers FDP are opposed to setting a limit of how many asylum seekers are allowed to enter Germany. They also want to allow people to file for asylum from abroad.

Family reunifications: The FDP's party program does not mention how they would handle family reunifications for those who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection.

Deportations: The FDP states that "people who were not granted the right to stay have to be consequently deported." They believe that some regions of Afghanistan are safe to deport to. 

Read more: FDP migration proposal outlines new refugee status

Immigration law: The FDP also want to introduce immigration regulations similar to Canada's point system, where potential migrants are awarded points based on their job market qualifications such as education and job experience. They also want people to be allowed to apply for the German citizenship after living in the country for four years – that's half of the current residency requirement.

Deutschland Bundesparteitag der FDP

Christian Lindner of the FDP wants to reform the German immigration law


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