Refugees in Germany waiting longer for asylum processing

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has been struggling to process asylum applications. Could job losses at the office be the reason?

German authorities have been taking far longer to process asylum requests compared to the beginning of the year, according to German daily Nüremberger Nachrichten.

Citing an internal document from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the newspaper said on Tuesday that the number of cases processed per month fell from 50,000 in the first months of 2017 to between 15,000 and 18,000 in recent months.

Read more: Acceptance rates for asylum seekers vary between German states

The negative trajectory was reflected in the longer amount of time taken to process new requests. Whereas authorities were able to process a new asylum application in around one and a half weeks in January, some recent applications needed up to two months to process.

Politics | 09.10.2017
New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

First-time applications in 2016

A total of 722,370 first-time applicants filed requests for political asylum in Germany in 2016, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The number reflects a roughly 65 percent increase compared to the previous year, when the total number of new applications stood at 441,899.

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Follow-up requests 33.3 percent lower

The number of follow-up applications, however, recorded a decline of 33.3 percent. In 2015, 34,750 second-chance asylum requests were filed with BAMF, whereas in 2016 the number fell to 23,175.

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Total asylum requests 56 percent higher

Combined, the number of first-time and follow-up applications for 2016 stood at 745,545. In 2015, this number stood at 476,649. So, BAMF recorded a 56.4 percent net increase in the total number of asylum requests in 2016 compared with 2015.

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Applications from Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis

The highest number of requests in 2016 were filed by Syrian nationals. According to BAMF’s report, people from the war-torn Middle Eastern state submitted 266,250 of the new applications (36.9 percent). Afghan nationals came in second, with 127,012 (17.6 percent), followed by Iraqis, who filed 96,116 asylum requests (13.3 percent) last year.

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Other prominent countries of origin

People from Iran filed 26,426 applications (3.7 percent). Eritreans submitted 18,854 applications (2.6 percent). Albanians totaled 14,853 (2.1 percent), 14,484 people from Pakistan requested asylum (2 percent), and Nigerians submitted 12,709 applications (1.8 percent).

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Young males make up majority of applicants

Nearly three-quarters of the applications filed in 2016 came from people younger than 30 years old. People aged between 18 and 25 filed 196,853 asylum requests, or about 23.5 percent of the overall total, making them the largest age group. The number of applications for children under the age of 4 stood at 78,192 (10.8 percent).

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Almost 700,000 decisions reached in 2016

German authorities accepted 433,920 people of the 695,733 applications they decided on in 2016. The overall protection rate for all countries of origin amounted to 62.4 percent.

New arrivals fall, asylum requests soar in 2016

Crimes against refugee centers still high

Ranging from vandalism to arson, more than 900 attacks on refugee centers were recorded in Germany in 2016. The Federal Criminal Police Office reported that, out of the 921 recorded offenses, 857 were suspected to have had far-right motives. In 2015, 1,031 such offenses were recorded, 923 of which were suspected of having a far-right background.

Almost 52,000 older applications were still unprocessed by the end of September with some of those applications stemming from 2015. Authorities had earlier said they wanted to process all applications that were started in 2016 before May 2017.

Read more: Germany refugee limit 'legally sound, ethically questionable'

Fewer jobs and German speakers

BAMF's challenges also appear to include their management of German-language courses for refugees.

In September, only 28,000 refugees were admitted to language courses, despite authorities having previously aimed to admit 56,000. On average, refugees admitted to a course have waited six months before starting it.

The courses themselves have not been a rounding success.

According to statistics from September, 3,000 course participants were successful in achieving an adequate command of German by the end of the course. An additional 3,000 failed to do so.

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Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Refugees head to language school

A new language and alphabet are among the chief challenges awaiting asylum seekers arriving in Germany. Most need help, at least to get started. The good news on this day, however, is that they can leave their satchels, their exercise books, and even their teachers behind - it's time to hit the streets and learn proactively.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Appetite for learning

The ACB Lingua language school's new "Integration Course" is aimed at recent arrivals. The school sent students on a "treasure hunt" to teach them about Bonn, and to get students to try out some German with strangers. Task 1: "Go to the market - find this stall - what types of fruit and vegetables does it sell?"

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Teaching aids

Do you know the German for "pineapple?" While French and Italian-speakers have no excuse for getting the wrong answer, the students, most of whom speak Arabic, had a harder time. Thankfully clues abound! The team DW accompanied seemed keen for bonus points; they noted down prices, too, though that information was not required.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Cheating? More like a shortcut

Students were urged not to use their phones and to ask people in German for directions and information instead. However, on finding a passer-by who spoke both German and Arabic, the temptation was too great. Bassam (holding the paper) was kind enough to talk the team through several sentences they couldn't understand.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

'When was Beethoven born?'

Ludwig van Beethoven is arguably Bonn's most famous native. The house where he was born, near the city-center marketplace, serves as a small museum. Radwan Ajouz and his son Ali, originally from Aleppo in Syria, work on their next task. They find magic number: 1770.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Pick up the pace

Bonus points were on offer for groups that completed the treasure hunt the fastest - with competitors keeping a keen eye on the clock. Still, within around two hours, the tour took them to a string of places they're likely to visit again. One question asked them to find out and note down the opening hours of Bonn's foreign nationals' office (Ausländeramt).

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Getting around town

"Go to Friedensplatz," the team's instructions say, pointing them to another major square in central Bonn. "What is the final destination for bus number 608, and when will the next one arrive?" The 608 also stops fairly close to the Paulus-Heim in Bonn - a former old people's home converted into a refugee shelter, where many in the class live.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Staff coffee break

Next stop: the city library. There, students should find books in Arabic, Persian or Kurdish, and ask for information on what paperwork they need to borrow books. However, on entry, our reporter was distracted by the sight of the class' teachers chatting over coffee - while their charges did all the hard graft! One of them proudly scrolls through photos of other recent class outings.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Greetings from Bonn!

"Sit down somewhere," and write a postcard, the class was told, nearing the end of their assignment. "Go to the main post office, buy a stamp and send the postcard. Keep your receipt for the stamp." Another means of communication unlocked - though the task of buying the right stamp for a postcard was a challenge.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Waiting for the stragglers

This was a longer lesson than usual - with some teams needing more time than others. Early finishers, though, had a game of Pictionary awaiting them: draw something on the board, and whoever names it first (in German, of course!) gets the pen. This game showed quite a gulf between the students; some couldn't contribute, the more advanced were even getting the right genders for the nouns.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Points mean prizes

ACB Lingua's Alev Erisöv-Reinke had laid on rewards for the groups who scored best on her fact-finding mission around the heart of Bonn. Our team didn't quite make the top three - quite possibly because they were handicapped by a chatty reporter, who was also under orders not to help.

Refugees learn by doing on German language course in Bonn

Victory from jaws of defeat

A surprise to end the day: a bonus prize does go to Radwan Ajouz after all, as the oldest competitor to finish the challenge. Ajouz was all smiles throughout the exercise, shouting "Foto! Foto!" (photo) at all and sundry on DW's behalf, after realizing our need to ask permission. His wife and four of his children are still in Lebanon, having fled Syria.

Half of all those who had been admitted to a course were deemed "inactive" because they had not showed up to classes over the previous nine months.

The longer processing times have come as BAMF has been reducing its workforce.

The office had previously employed almost 10,000 people. In September, that number was down to 7,800 with half of those employed engaged on temporary contracts.

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

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Asylum applications steadily increase

A total of 59,680 applications for political asylum were submitted in April, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). In March, 58,315 people applied for asylum.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Syrians lead again

The highest number of asylum applications were submitted, once again, by Syrian nationals, who are seeking refuge from a bloody civil war in their country. In April, asylum applications by Syrian nationals stood at 25,791 which is a 7.5 percent decrease from March, when 27,878 such applications were submitted.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Syrians most overall, too

According to BAMF, a total of 246,393 applications for political asylum were submitted across Germany from January through April. Syrians top the list, with 116,826.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Applications from Iraqi nationals increase

Iraqis were second, with 9,505 applications, recording a 5.8 percent increase compared with the 8,982 submitted in March.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Afghans stood at No. 3

The month-on-month increase in asylum applications from Afghan nationals was 11.8 percent, with 8,458 applications in April compared with 7,567 a month earlier.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Applicants with nationality ‘unclear’

The number of applications from people whose nationality is "unclear" stood at 1,299. In March, the number of such applications stood at 1,869. Thus, month-to-month BAMF recorded a decrease of 30.5 percent.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

44 percent more applications from Albanians

Albanians were sixth on the list, with 1,188 applications, behind Iranians, at No. 5 with 1,981. Pakistanis filed 1,038 applications, and 1,152 Eritreans appealed their cases.

BAMF: Asylum applications in Germany continue to rise

Year-on-year comparison

In comparison with March 2015, when 24,504 applications for asylum were submitted, March 2016 saw an increase of nearly 140 percent, with 58,315 applications.