Germany Severe Asylum Law, No More Communication Privacy for Refugees

Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge or BAMF) would be allowed to examine refugees’ mobile phone records to establish their true identity under a proposed law. The bill aims to prevent refugees from giving false identities, reports Kate Brady.

According to information published by three German media outlets on Sunday, a new draft legislation could see German authorities circumventing the consent of refugees and tapping their cell phones in order to establish their identity.

Regional German broadcasters WDR and NDR and the Munich-based daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported that the proposed law seeks to “improve the enforcement of the obligation to leave the country.”

Germany’s Interior Ministry has declined to disclose any further details until a final decision has been made on what should be included in the bill – or even if it will be submitted to parliament.

In principle, access to the records of mobile phones and other data carriers has been permissible since the amendment of the 2015 residence law. However, the  BAMF currently needs the consent of asylum seekers, without which authorities are only able to see the contents of a phone with a court order – which is only granted if there is a suspicion of a criminal offence.

The proposed law is just the latest in a string of several proposals to come out of Berlin that aim to prevent refugees from giving different or false identifications to authorities.

BAMF, which is currently dealing with a backlog of some 430,000 unprocessed asylum applications,  last week called for all refugees currently living in Germany to be fingerprinted in order to cut down on false identities.

In some cases, asylum-seekers lie about their identity out of fear of imminent deportation. Others, however, had lied in order to carry out benefit fraud.

Earlier this month, a 25-year-old asylum-seeker in Hannover was handed a 21-month suspended sentence including 200 hours of community service for fraud, after admitting to having registered in several cities across Germany under seven different names in order to obtain social benefits.

Tunisian-born Anis Amri, who killed 12 people in a terror attack at a Berlin Christmas market in December, also reportedly hid behind 14 different identities. Though the multiple identities did not prevent security services from following him for weeks ahead of the attack or holding him in a deportation cell for the maximum period of time without charge while waiting for Tunisian authorities to acknowledge his citizenship.

Meanwhile, a top German functionary, Dr Ralf Sanftenberg, had during a visit to the Nigerian presidency in Abuja on 7 February revealed that there were more than 12,000 Nigerian asylum-seekers in his country and the overwhelming majority of them had practically no chances of being successful with their claims.

Sanftenberg, who is the Global Head of programme, Migration and Development at the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, revealed that between now and the end of next year, Germany intends to deport more than 12,000 Nigerians.

In an opinion piece in the African Courier, Kenneth Gbandi, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization Europe – NIDOE, debunks the argument of the German government that the Nigerian asylum claims are not credible, arguing that there are enough grounds to allow them to stay just as the Syrians are granted residency.

Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint press conference in Berlin with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during his visit in 2016 stated that Germany is unable to grant all Nigerians, claiming to be fleeing militant groups, international protection because “we presume that most of them came for economic reasons” unlike Syrians or Iraqis who are fleeing war zones.

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