Friday, March 1, 2024
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Home » Germany’s Regional Leaders Demand More Financial Support for Refugees

Germany’s Regional Leaders Demand More Financial Support for Refugees

by Nate Sharp
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Leaders of country’s 16 states will call on Chancellor Scholz to increase daily rate for feeding, housing and schooling asylum seekers

German lawmakers are at loggerheads over how to manage the number of refugees coming into the country, with regional leaders calling on the government to provide more financial support.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Germany’s 16 states will meet Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, in Berlin, and call on him to ensure that the federal government takes on more responsibility for immigration, including increasing the daily rate allocated to cover the costs of individuals.

The meeting will take place amid growing appeals for help from mayors and communities across Germany, who say they are failing to cope with feeding, housing and schooling a growing number of asylum seekers. Their representatives will be connected to the conference digitally.

About 102,000 people applied for asylum in Germany in the first four months of this year, compared with 218,000 for the whole of last year. It amounts to an increase of about 78% on the same period last year. This is in addition to around one million refugees who have arrived from Ukraine since February 2022, including 350,000 children. The numbers are still considerably lower than the estimated one million who arrived during the refugee crisis in the summer and autumn of 2015 – but still much higher than in most recent years.

Andreas Bovenschulte, the Social Democrat mayor of the northern city of Bremen, appealed to the government to step up. “We cannot shoulder the costs of accommodating and looking after people on our own … the government must take more responsibility and at least carry half the costs,” he said.

Reiner Haseloff, leader of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, said democracy was at stake if the government failed to take control of the situation. “If we in Germany don’t show ourselves to be capable of action, then trust in our democracy will increasingly be undermined,” said Haseloff, who belongs to the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU).

Boris Rhein, leader of the state of Hesse, called on the government to start a “repatriation offensive”, arguing that far too many asylum seekers were remaining in Germany even after their asylum cases had been rejected.

The government, in turn, has questioned the calls from regional leaders for increased financial help, voicing its concerns that they have previously used money meant to finance refugees for other purposes. The claim has been denied by the regions.

One of the issues under dispute is the amount of money the government has paid towards the upkeep of Ukrainian refugees, around 1 million of whom have arrived in Germany since February 2022. In an internal paper seen by German media, the government states it spent around €3bn (£2.6bn) last year to cover 90% of the social welfare costs for Ukrainians. It says it will increase its contribution to these costs by €2bn this year.

But the states say the government is failing to take into account other extensive costs, such as for integration courses, preschool nurseries and schools. They add that they have also had to deal with an increasing number of refugees from countries other than Ukraine, whose costs they are obliged by law to cover entirely. These costs are expected to run to around €15.6bn this year.

The state finance ministers complain of a huge budget shortfall. In 2016, in conjunction with the financial framework to fund refugees, the government gave the states €9.1bnBut that figure has fallen to €2.75bn, the ministers say, and next year it is due to fall further, to €1.25bn. Under current legislation, it is due to stay at that level.

At the meeting, the state leaders will argue for a return to a previous model of financing that stopped in 2021. Under that scheme, individuals received €670 a month, but because of inflation, that figure should now stand at €1,000, the leaders say. In addition, they would like to see the government pay a set sum for unaccompanied minors as well as completely refunding the costs of housing refugees.

The opposition leftwing Die Linke party has accused the government of failing to establish a functioning refugee policy. Dietmar Bartsch, its parliamentary leader, urged Scholz to press for more solidarity from EU partners to allow a fair distribution of refugees across the bloc. He criticised proposals – supported by the pro-business FDP – to erect fences on the EU’s outer borders. “They will not help, because you can build the fences as high as you like – migrants will continue to come. And we’ll simply lose our humanity by building them,” he told broadcaster DLF.

Source: The Guardian

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