quarta-feira, 2 de março de 2016

Europe’s top court places curbs on Germany’s migration policy

March 1, 2016 12:01 pm
Europe’s top court places curbs on Germany’s migration policy
Duncan Robinson in Brussels and Guy Chazan in Berlin

The EU’s top court placed tough curbs on Germany’s ability to dictate where refugees can live, in a move that could complicate efforts by Berlin to distribute refugees across the whole country.
In general, people who have been granted international protection should be free to live where they like in a country, the court ruled. But Berlin can in certain circumstances dictate where arriving refugees stay, in order to help their “integration”.
The ECJ decision will limit Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to share out refugees in the face of an influx of more than 1m people in 2015 and a growing popular backlash against their arrival.
The ruling explicitly dismissed the defence that such residence restrictions helped spread the burden of social welfare payments, which are a major concern for Germany’s regions.
EU rules “preclude” such bans even if they are aimed at “achieving an appropriate distribution of the burden connected with the benefits in question”, according to the court.
The case centred on two Syrian nationals, who arrived in Germany between 1998 and 2001 to seek asylum.
Although both their applications were rejected they were given subsidiary protection, which allows people who do not qualify for refugee status to stay in a country because they would be at risk if deported.
Both were granted residence permits but with so-called “residence conditions” that dictated they could only live in one part of the country, which they challenged in a German court.
Germany has long tended to distribute refugees around the country as part of a deliberate policy to prevent the formation of ghettos in big cities such as Berlin and Hamburg.
The government also wants to be able to direct immigrant flows to underpopulated parts of the country such as the former communist East Germany, where there is plentiful housing and a shortage of young, working age people.
The strategy was pursued aggressively in the 1990s when the country faced a large influx of ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union and Romania. The immigrants were told to live in certain towns and villages and had welfare benefits cut if they moved away.
The German government is currently preparing a law which would expand the existing residency restrictions to refugees whose asylum requests have been approved. A spokesman for the interior ministry said the ECJ decision now paves the way for such a law to be adopted. “It makes clear that [Germany’s] residence conditions are in compliance with European law, even for recognised refugees, and that the integration argument is an acceptable reason [for such restrictions],” he said.

But refugee organisations disagreed. “A close reading of the decision makes clear that residence conditions for people with subsidiary protection and refugees are not possible in terms of European law,” said Marei Pelzer, a legal expert with refugee advocacy group Pro Asyl. The group called on the government to drop plans to expand the current rules

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