Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Threats to Liberty in Germany

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Threats to Liberty in Germany

Article excerpt

In January 2012 Mohamed Rahsepar, an Iranian asylum seeker, commited suicide after spending seven months in Würzburg reception centre for asylum seekers (a former military barracks in the southern state of Bavaria). His suicide ignited nationwide protests, hunger strikes and a refugee 'bus tour' which began a year-long campaign through the major cities of Germany, documenting the conditions of asylum seekers living on the fringes of society. In March 2013, thousands gathered in Berlin to demand changes to Germany's deterrentbased practices of asylum.

A new airport under construction in Berlin will include a 1,000 square metre complex with video surveillance surrounded by a three-metre-high fence. This facility will become a part of a wider 'extraterritorial' fast-track asylum procedure,

already in place at five major airports throughout Germany; all asylum seekers entering Berlin by air will be detained here. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees or the Administrative Court will complete a fast-track assessment of an asylum claim (including all subsequent hearings and appeals) within a 19-day period. If a claim is found to be 'manifestly unfounded',1 a deportation order will be issued. According to Amnesty International, between 1993 and 2007 86% of the 4,113 appeals submitted in the airport procedure were rejected.

The government's aim is to minimise long procedures and reduce costs, and to prevent economic migrants from seeking asylum. However, many have argued that this procedure, with its swift assessment and automatic detention, amounts to arbitrary detention. Numerous organisations have urged the authorities to ensure that asylum seekers are not routinely detained and that their rights to a fair asylum procedure are guaranteed. In addition, they argue, persons with special needs, including unaccompanied minors and survivors of trauma and torture, should be identified, and their special circumstances taken into consideration. It has been reported that asylum seekers are often unable to secure legal representation and subsequently struggle to complete the procedures necessary to lodge an appeal or secure a suspension of deportation, orto access complaint mechanisms or medical care.

Risk of immediate detention and deportation, however, is not the only challenge faced upon arrival. …

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