New immigration law proposed for Germany

Sigmar Gabriel has urged the adoption of an immigration law for Germany. [SPD Hamburg/Flickr]

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wants a new immigration law for Germany. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has put it on the back burner for the time being. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Merkel likely feels the heat from the right side of her conservative bloc. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, for example, wants to limit the right of asylum, and use this as a basis to forge a common immigration policy with the EU.

“We need an alternative to people smugglers and traffickers,” said the SPD chairman on Thursday (10 September), speaking in the German parliament. A legal doorway into Europe must be made available. “That is why I would strongly recommend that we advance the issue of an immigration law for Germany,” Gabriel added.

This year, 450,000 refugees have already arrived in Germany, with 37,000 arriving in just the first eight days of September and 105,000 in the month of August.

>>Read: Hahn: Migration crisis demands pan-European response

There is opposition to an immigration law in the Union. Merkel has deferred the debate on the law until the direction of the refugee crisis becomes more clear. Then, she explained, the issue can be discussed in a more “level-headed” manner.

The CSU proposes a very different path. Markus Söder, the state’s finance minister, wants to restrict German asylum law. The other EU partners are not willing to accept the criteria of the German asylum law, wrote Söder in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. But, he demands, “Whoever seeks a European solution to the refugee crisis must be prepared to Europeanise German standards, to scale them back.” Not existing German standards, but those proposed by Söder.

According to the Bavarian finance minister, the essential question is “Is the individual’s right to asylum compatible with the massive influx of refugees arriving in Europe?” Söder uses the Swiss system as an example that Germany could replicate. Asylum seekers from ‘safe’ countries are deported within 48 hours, without being paid benefits. “Such a system could be a model for Germany, although a constitutional amendment would be necessary.”

The SPD, as well as the opposition, oppose any constitutional changes to restrict the right of asylum, regarding it as a step backwards, for German law, to the 1990s, when the right to asylum was curtailed. Such a change would require a two-thirds majority in both the German parliament, and the federal council (the Bundestag and the Bundesrat).

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