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Turkish grocery store in Gelsenkirchen

Turkish grocery store in Gelsenkirchen
Source: Ulrike Filgers

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Right to asylum?

All eyes in Germany are on North Rhine-Westphalia. Two days after the curtailment of asylum rights in the wake of a public debate on immigration, the home of a Turkish family in Solingen is set ablaze on 29 May 1993. Five people die in the worst violence against foreigners since German bulletreunification.

A nasty slogan is being trumpeted by populists: "Germany is full up, there's no more room for foreigners!". The number of asylum-seekers rose by about two-thirds in 1992, with a total of 438,191 people applying for asylum.

"Persons persecuted on political grounds shall enjoy the right of asylum," says the Basic Law, the Federal Republic of Germany's constitution. In practice very tough rules are applied. Of every one hundred applicants, no more than five gain recognition and protection as refugees.

But the processing of applications can take a very long time, with asylum-seekers staying for years until their case is heard.

With immigrant numbers rising and a widespread bulletxenophobic mood in the country, the political parties move to amend the right to asylum. From 1993, bulletrefugees entering Germany who are from "safe" countries of origin can be stopped at the border and sent directly back to those countries.

Just which ones are "safe" is decreed by the Bundestag and Bundesrat (lower and upper chambers of parliament). Moreover, asylum-seekers from "unsafe" countries entering from "safe" third countries have no right to a hearing.

Safe third countries include all the EU states, Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. In other words, Germany is surrounded by "safe third countries"; so any applicant who is shown to have entered the country overland has virtually no chance!

Kathrin Mohr

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