The German government plans to provide €6 billion to cope with the ongoing crisis, given the growing number of refugees trying to make their way into the country. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Angela Merkel’s government decided early on Monday (7 September) that €3 billion of this sum is to be earmarked for the federal states and its municipalities. The Grand Coalition will use the remaining €3 billion for its own purposes in the 2016 budget, announced the leaders of the CDU, CSU and SPD in a joint decision.
A full package of measures was agreed upon for Germany and Europe, as well as cooperation with non-European countries.
The decisions taken at the Chancellery should curtail the large influx of refugees coming into the country, while at the same time providing people who have been displaced by the Syrian civil war with accommodation and help with integrating into society. After five hours of negotiations, politicians eventually came to an agreement on how to tackle the crisis, with Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro being designated as safe countries of origin.
This will shorten the asylum process considerably. In refugee reception centres, monetary aid will be replaced by non-cash benefits. Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin will no longer be distributed among the municipalities. For people whose applications are not accepted, deportation will be suspended for a maximum of three months and social benefits will be reduced.
It has been explicitly stressed that the decision taken at the weekend to accept refugees arriving from Hungary should remain an exception. The challenges being posed by the refugee crisis can only be addressed through cooperation of all the EU member states.
The capacity of refugee reception centres should be increased to 150,000 “winter proof” places. The government will cover the financial costs and will ease building regulations temporarily to facilitate the measures. Refugees will be allowed to stay in these reception centres for a maximum period of six months. The federal police will be able to create 3,000 new jobs in order to cope with and speed up the deportation of asylum seekers who do not have their applications accepted.
In order to facilitate the integration of accepted asylum seekers and refugees from the civil war, it was also agreed to abolish the ban on asylum seekers working on a temporary basis after three months, as well as increasing funding for the labour market and language courses. In the future, there will be more opportunities for legal migration for nationals from the Western Balkans.
Social housing in Germany will be boosted. To this end, the government will not only provide municipalities with accommodation, but will promote new low-cost housing through tax incentives. The KFW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau), a government-owned development bank, wants to provide municipalities with loans of up to €300 million for refugee shelters. The government’s volunteer initiative, the Bundesfreiwilligendienst, should look to create 10,000 more jobs to increase voluntary engagement with refugees.
Germany also wants EU policy to change in order to deal with the crisis. The government has called for refugee quotas to be enforced, for registration centres (hotspots) to be established in more southern EU countries and for a fundamental reform of EU asylum policy to be carried out. Additionally, financial and practical help should be provided to those EU states that are most affected by people-smugglers.
The foreign ministry will receive €400 million to increase their crisis prevention efforts. In North Africa, contact centres should be established, so that refugees can be given information about the dangerous sea-crossing and whether they have a chance of being granted asylum in the EU.