A Contentious Reform to Germany’s Residence Act

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In July 2015, the German parliament passed a contentious reform to the Residence Act, the section of German law that determines the fate of asylum seekers. An independent advocacy group for refugees, ProAsyl, calls the reform “an extensive system of imprisonment.” Under the new rules, some widespread means used to gain entry to German will become the basis for imprisonment, effectively criminalizing refugees.

The refugee can be imprisoned, if they have incomplete or falsified documents, paid a smuggler to gain entry, deceived about identity and have repeatedly changed their address. These apply to many refugees, who, in the act of fleeing their country of origin, may have missing documents, paid a smuggler and so on. Because these criteria apply to a large percentage of refugees, this change to the law is seen to criminalize refugees.

The changes to the law weren’t all this contentious and some could even be said to be positive. For refugees who have integrated into society, they will now be granted a residency permit sooner, after only eight years of an uninterrupted stay in Germany. For those with children, the time-frame has been shortened to six years. There is good news for refugee students as well. They can no longer be deported while they are enrolled in a post-secondary  program.

An English translation of the laws governing refugee status is available from the governmental ministry responsible for justice.


About the Author

James Skidmore, co-editor of kultur360, teaches German Studies at the University of Waterloo.


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