«Short process behind barbed wire»

Muslim woman in a refugee shelter in Heidelberg, Germany © Uwe Anspach

Church associations such as Caritas and migration experts reject the planned anchor centers for asylum seekers. The aim is order, but disorder is created.

For Markus Lahrmann of Caritas in NRW, the planned anchor centers are a cause for great concern. Refugees with poor prospects of remaining in the camps are to be held there until they can return voluntarily, or at least be given a new lease of life. Deportation to remain a maximum of 18 months, according to plans of the federal government. In view of the negative perspective, those housed there would develop a high potential for frustration, which will only be kept under control at great expense, he fears.

The example of Oerlinghausen, where alleged asylum seekers from Eastern Europe took the opportunity to engage in organized crime, should not remain an isolated case, says Lahrmann to our site. There, crimes committed in the vicinity of a facility for asylum seekers, presumably or demonstrably by asylum seekers, have caused considerable citizen protests. NRW State Secretary Bothe had to promise a whole series of costly measures to appease angry local residents. Caritas in NRW is now warning that similar things are likely to be repeated in other locations and are likely to become even more potent in the case of the anchor centers.

Another grievance of the anchor centers is the lack of education for the children housed there. Families with children are to be released from the facility after three months (after six months if their application for protection has already been rejected, provided that they have not yet been repatriated) and assigned to a municipality. However, Lahrmann says that adherence to this time limit is not currently reliable practice; in some cases, families remain in the 30a facilities for significantly longer periods of time. Experience also shows that even when the children are distributed to a community, it often takes several months before a school place is available. In this way, the right of every child to be educated is being undermined for an unreasonable length of time.

"Nationwide isolation"

Caritas in Lower Saxony has also spoken out against the establishment of asylum and deportation centers. "We reject a nationwide isolation of asylum seekers in anchor centers," said state secretary Thomas Uhlen on Thursday in Hanover. In his eyes, the anchor centers are "a pitiful attempt to make short work of unfair procedures behind barbed wire. Those who suffer most from this policy of isolation are first and foremost the women and children, whose protection in these mass accommodations can only be inadequately taken into account," says Uhlen.

The women's aid organization Medica Mondiale expressed similar views. Mass camps with up to 1.500 people would increase the already existing risk for women and girls to become victims of gender-specific violence, warned the chairwoman Monika Hauser in Cologne on Thursday. "Anchor centers mean a big step backwards in terms of protection against violence," she explained. The police union had also already warned of a "considerable potential for aggression and danger" in such mass accommodations.

Migration experts critical

Migration experts are also critical of the plans. "We don't see the advantage," said migration researcher Werner Schiffauer on Thursday at an event organized by Mediendienst Integration in Berlin. Schiffauer is convinced that while this is an attempt at order, it creates disorder. The researcher is chairman of the board of the Council for Migration, a network of 150 scientists.

Schiffauer expects that, given the difficult conditions in such centers, about a third of the people will simply abscond. This would strengthen mafia-like structures, complicate asylum procedures and make integration much more difficult. The larger the accommodation, the greater the potential for frustration among residents, he added. The consequences: Depression, aggression and even criminalization.

"Germany is developing from a country of integration to a country of exclusion"

Long-term accommodation in such mass shelters secured with barbed wire leads to stigmatization of the people living there, said the statement by Pro Asyl and the refugee councils. They would be "virtually excluded" from contact with the population living here: "Germany is developing from a country of integration to a country of exclusion."

The current concept of the Federal Minister of the Interior does not even provide for the introduction of independent procedural counseling, as agreed in the coalition agreement of the CDU, CSU and SPD, criticized Pro Asyl and the Refugee Councils. At the same time, he said, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees had recommended a nationwide introduction of independent asylum procedure counseling as recently as September 2017.

Five pilot projects

According to information from Pro Asyl and the Refugee Councils, Seehofer plans to present his concept at the end of May. According to the agreement, five pilot projects are to be launched initially, with locations in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Lower Saxony under discussion.
The term anchor center is derived from the words "arrival," "decision" and "repatriation". Asylum seekers are to be housed in the facilities for the entire duration of their application review. The CDU/CSU and SPD had agreed to create such centers in the coalition agreement, but several states and parts of the SPD are skeptical about their implementation.

The plan is to accommodate up to 1.500 people per center. Adult single asylum seekers should stay in the centers for up to 18 months, and families for up to six months, to ensure that when they leave, their asylum procedure is completed. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) also hopes to increase deportation numbers by allowing people to leave the centers directly.

Majority of German citizens in favor

According to a survey, more than three quarters of Germans are in favor of the asylum and deportation centers planned by the grand coalition government. This is the result of a representative survey conducted for the newspaper by the opinion research institute Civey, according to "Welt". According to the survey, 77 percent of respondents were in favor of so-called anchor centers. 18 percent of respondents voted against the plans, 5 percent were undecided.

According to the survey, supporters of the AfD (98 percent) were most clearly in favor of the anchor centers — followed by supporters of the FDP (91 percent) and the Union (88 percent). Majorities in favor were also found among SPD supporters (62 percent) and supporters of the Left Party (53 percent). Green Party voters were the only majority (57 percent) to oppose the establishment of these centers.

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