Germany speeds up asylum process

German authorities took three fewer months on an average to process asylum requests in the third quarter of 2018 compared with the first quarter. But critics say even that still falls way short of government targets.

German authorities took a little over six months on an average to process asylum requests in the third quarter of 2018, according to an Interior Ministry response to a parliamentary question by the Left party.

The average processing time was 9.2 months in the first quarter and 7.3 months in the second quarter, newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe quoted. In 2017, the asylum seekers had to wait an average of 10.7 months for a decision.

The time that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) officials needed to process asylum requests in the third quarter is still way below the target of three months that Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with state premiers in 2015.

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"Instead of the costly and mostly ineffective process of questioning the protection status that has already been granted, as is currently happening hundreds of thousands of times in the context of the revocation investigations, the BAMF staff should be deployed to examine the asylum applications and gain better qualifications," Left Party domestic policy expert Ulla Jelpke told Funke newspapers.

This could effectively shorten the length of procedures "without compromising the quality of the procedures," she said.

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Shorter wait for Syrians

Asylum seekers from Pakistan had to wait the longest for a decision on their requests, the report said. The authorities took an average of 9.1 months in the third quarter to process their applications.

Russian, Somalian and Afghan asylum seekers also had to wait for longer periods for the decision.

But asylum seekers from Syria saw their requests processed in just 4.4 months.

Read moreGermany's list of 'safe countries of origin' and what it means

Unaccompanied minors wait longer

The report showed that unaccompanied refugees under the age of 18 had to wait for particularly long periods. The average processing time was 7.7 months in the third quarter of 2018 and 10.2 months in the first nine months of last year. 

Young refugees from Afghanistan had to wait for more than a year to know their fate.

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While the BAMF had processed a large number of "old cases," thousands still remained to be processed, according to the report. At the end of September 2018, more than 4,000 asylum seekers had been waiting for over 18 months for a decision.

"Overly long asylum procedures cause unreasonable uncertainty for asylum seekers," said Jelpke. She called for "an uncomplicated right of residence for all asylum seekers whose applications with the BAMF have been pending for more than twelve months."

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Corruption scandal at BAMF

On April 20, 2018, a number of employees at the regional BAMF office in Bremen were accused of having illegally accepted hundreds of asylum applicants between 2013 and 2017, mainly from Iraq's Yazidi community. Bremen public prosecutors announced that six people, including the former director of the Bremen BAMF office, were under investigation for alleged corruption in about 1,200 cases.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Damage control

Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reacted swiftly to the allegations, saying it would be wrong to speculate on what consequences the incident could have for the BAMF immigration offices. He said that the "extremely serious allegations" would first have to be resolved. The BAMF scandal could be a major embarrassment to Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy to refugees.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

The plot thickens

A few weeks into the scandal, German media reported that 13 further regional BAMF branches were going to be subject to checks regarding their approval of asylum applications. The branches had apparently come under scrutiny for showing noticeable differences in the number of asylum applications accepted or rejected in comparison to other offices. Some 8,000 applications will have to be re-checked.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

BAMF head under fire

A month into the scandal, details emerged that BAMF had been informed about the possible improprieties in Bremen earlier than thought, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported. The irregularities were reportedly flagged back in February 2017. In the light of the growing scandal, BAMF head Jutta Cordt announced that some 18,000 asylum decisions made in Bremen since 2000 now had to be re-checked.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Seehofer to face parliamentary committee

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer meanwhile confirmed that he would testify before a special meeting of the Bundestag internal affairs committee to be convened at the request of the Green Party. The committee hopes to avoid a full-blown parliamentary investigation, which two other opposition parties — the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the center-right FDP — are calling for.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Man of the hour

This might be the man who would have to answer some serious questions if a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry should be launched. Thomas de Maiziere was Germany's interior minister until the beginning of the year, overseeing the management of asylum application at the height of the refugee crisis. De Maiziere, an ally of Merkel's, criticized the shortcomings of the assessment system in the past.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Stripped of authority

On May 23, the German Interior Ministry prohibited the regional BAMF office in Bremen from deciding whether individual refugees will be given asylum in the country. Seehofer said an internal BAMF report had shown that "legal regulations and internal policies" had been "disregarded" at the center.

German asylum scandal: A timeline

Federal Police join probe

The city of Bremen has said Germany's Federal Criminal Police are now part of the inquiry into the wide-ranging corruption. The decision came after a crisis meeting on the scandal surrounding the city's asylum procedure for refugees.

ap/rt (AFP, KNA, EPD)

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