Germany is paying asylum seekers to give up and go home. Voluntary returnees can apply for financial assistance until the end of February 2018. Individuals are eligible for up to €1,000 (and families can receive up to €3,000) in order to cover resettlement costs. If they ever return to Germany, however, then they must repay the money.
The scheme does not apply to several countries currently undergoing major political instability or conflict, including Syria, Yemen, and Libya (though, controversially, Afghanistan is covered by the policy). However, critics argue that, in effect, the German government is bribing the world’s most vulnerable to give up their right to asylum.
Germany is not the only country to deploy such a scheme. Sweden and Norway also offer financial incentives for people to return, arguing that the one-off payment is much cheaper than supporting a lengthy asylum process that might anyway end in rejection and deportation. So everyone can benefit, right?
What do you think? Our reader Pius is in favour. He argues that if the asylum seekers go back, then the money saved in Germany can be used to rebuild their home countries.
To get a reaction, we spoke to Karl Kopp from PRO ASYL, a German NGO and asylum advocacy organisation. How would he respond?
You have to give people seeking protection a fair asylum hearing, and this includes independent advice. You must let them know how their application will be judged and what to expect. If people want to go back home during the asylum procedure (but only during a fair asylum hearing) they have to be supported. But it should not be the case that money is offered merely in order to dispense with legal proceedings. This is at best problematic, and at worst completely cynical.
It always makes sense to support people, but this financial incentive to return home has nothing to do with that. 86% of all refugees in the world live in the immediate vicinity of their home countries. This must not be forgotten.
We also had a comment from Paulo, who says Germany should welcome asylum seekers who have needed professional qualifications, have arrived lawfully, and can provide for themselves. But do these factors play any role in German asylum law at all?
These factors play no role in asylum and refugee protection, and they are not allowed to do so. Even critically-ill and severely traumatised people have a right to protection and decent reception… Country’s are of course allowed to set their own immigration policy, and the state can set its own criteria for that. But asylum and refugee procedures have international criteria for determining whether someone is eligible for protection.
Should asylum seekers be paid to go home? Or such a policy morally wrong? Is it trying to entice vulnerable people to give up their fundamental rights? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!