Passage of the Asylum Compromise

1993

Germany

Borders Migrations

At the beginning of the 1990s, the number of both first-time and repeat asylum claims being filed within the territory of the EU increases. The applicants come primarily from the former Yugoslavia, then disintegrating amidst civil war. In 1992, as the number of asylum applications submitted to Germany reaches 483,191, the so-called “asylum compromise” is reached, bringing about a massive restriction of the basic right of asylum.

The new regulation was issued in December 1992 by the CDU/CSU, FDP, and SPD and came into effect on July 1, 1993. Through the revision of the the German Basic Law and the Asylum Procedure Act, the so-called third-party state regulation and airport procedure were introduced.

According to the third-party state regulation, asylum applicants traveling from their country of origin into Germany by way of an EU member state, or any other state classified by the German authorities as “secure” or “safe”, forfeit their claim to asylum in Germany. The German authorities assume that it is reasonable to expect of an asylum-seeker that they lay claim to their right to asylum in the first secure state which they enter in the course of their flight. All states bordering on Germany are designated safe third-party states in this sense. Thus the right to asylum in Germany is necessarily predicated upon entry into the country by air or by sea.

The airport procedure is a sped-up means of processing an asylum claim prior to entry into German territory. Persons seeking asylum who are traveling without or with forged papers, or who are traveling from a country designated as safe, can be detained by federal police in a refugee shelter within the transit area of the airport at which they arrive. There they must immediately submit and justify their application for asylum and may not leave the shelter until a decision has been made in their case.

In 1993 the no less controversial Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act came into effect. According to this legislation, the state must guarantee the provision of only a bare minimum of basic services to asylum applicants, for example in the form of vouchers. The voucher system, however, exhibits a problematic character. For one, people bearing vouchers are immediately recognizable as asylum applicants and thus subject to racism and discrimination. Furthermore, they are unable to freely determine the nature of their purchases, as vouchers can only be exchanged for specific foodstuffs and products.

Furthermore, the revision of Germany’s asylum regulations unleashed a wider political discussion in the media and public sphere in which immigration and asylum were further stigmatized as a problem and danger from which Germany must defend itself. Meanwhile, the incidence of violent, right-wing extremist attacks on migrants increased across all of Germany [see: Racist pogroms in Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen, 1991-1992], much as in the early 1980s, shortly before the introduction of the Asylum Procedure Act [see: Passage of the Asylum Procedure Act, 1982]. The revised Asylum Procedure Act, in addition to the The Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act (including subsequent improvements, for example as part of the Immigration Act), form to the present the basis of asylum law in Germany.