|Here is some information about asylum and your rights in Germany.
With this information, which we gathered from the internet, books and our experience, we would like to give you an overview on the legal conditions and possibilities for refugees in Germany. Additionally you will find some hints and contacts which might be helpful for your case and in everyday life. Of course every case is different and information is always changing, and sometimes bureaucratic procedures are hard to understand, but don’t give up! No one is illegal! Good luck!
Updated version from April 2016
How do I apply for Asylum?
The asylum application has three main steps. First you should register at a Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung in the federal state where you are. You can also go to any police station if you don’t know where the Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung is. You will get a certificate that you applied asylum. The certificate is called BÜMA (Bescheinigung über die Meldung als Asylsuchender) – but because the law is changing, soon it will be called Ankunftsnachweis. Be aware that you might not be able to stay where you applied for asylum. They can send you anywhere in Germany. Always tell them if you have close family members somewhere else in Germany. You have the right to live together with your husband/wife or minor kids (under 18) or with your parents if you are minor. Secondly you need to apply for asylum at the BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge). Here you will be given a paper called Aufenthaltsgestattung, which allows you to stay legally until you get a final decision on your asylum claim.
You will be asked for personal details, photographed, fingerprinted, and be asked questions about yourself and how you got to Germany. This information will eventually be used in a „Dublin“ case (we will explain this later). Your answers will also be recorded and used later . The last step is the big interview. They will send you a letter with the date for your appointment. Sometimes you will need to wait several weeks or months for this appointment.
How long do I have to wait for papers?
It can take a very long time to get a final decision, sometimes more than one or two years. During the first three months of your asylum claim, you can only travel inside the region where you are registered. If your asylum case is rejected it is possible to appeal. Once you receive a negative decision, first you have to check the last page of the decision. You will find information about the legal possibilities open to you . There, it will be written down how much time you have to appeal against the decision. Be aware that in some cases it is only one week, so you need to be quick! You will receive the decision in a yellow envelope where the date when you recieved the letter is written. Please keep that envelope and find a lawyer if your case is rejected.
There are four different positive decisions:
1) you will be granted asylum according to Art. 16 a GG.
2) you are acknowledged as a refugee according to § 3 AsylG
3) you get subsidiary protection status (§ 4 AsylG)
4) there are other obstacles to deportation (Abschiebungsverbot, according to § 60 V, VII S. 1 AufenthG).
All of them will enable you to stay in Germany legally, but some things are different. It is good to ask a lawyer or a counselor when you get the decision and are not sure what it means.
Since March 2016 there are also fast-track procedures, where a decision is supposed to be taken within a week. These are for people from so called „secure countries“ (at the moment: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) whose applications will almost certainly be rejected; people who destroyed their identity papers or give false information about their identity or citizienship as well as people who apply for asylum in Germany for the second time (Folgeantragssteller). If they start a fast procedure for you, you might have to go to a special camp. If the BAMF doesn’t decide within a week then you have the right to a normal asylum procedure.
Will I get a house?
After you applied for asylum, you will be sent to a big camp for refugees, called Erstaufnahmelager. You have to go to the place where they send you and it can be anywhere in Germany. In every camp you will get a bed, food and some money. It should be clean and safe, but this is not always guaranteed. If the living conditions are bad, or you are not treated with respect by the staff and security, then it is your right to complain. Take pictures, record your experience and speak to an organisation about this or make it public. In this house you stay between a few days and six months. You are not allowed to leave the area where you live in this time. After that you will be sent to another accommodation, called Gemeinschaftsunterkunft (shared accommodation). Unfortunately you cannot choose where but you have the right to be in the same place as your close family (children, wife/husband, parents if you are a minor). You will get a place to sleep and money there also. After you get a positive decision from the BAMF you can get your own room and choose your city. Sometimes, during the asylum process, it is possible to rent a flat that is payed for by the social welfare office, especially for families and vulnerable persons (medical and psychological reasons).
Can I go to school to learn German?
Once you get a positive decision from the BAMF you have to apply for social welfare from the “Jobcenter“. You can find the form on the internet. After checking your application the Jobcenter will give you a confirmation. With this paper you can go to certain German schools and learn German. The Jobcenter will pay for the school. You may have to do an integration course which will teach you German. People from Syria, Irak, Eritrea and Iran can also get a German class during their asylum process if they don´t fall under the Dublin III regulation. If you can’t get a German class because you are still waiting for the decision or you are rejected, you can check for free classes done by volunteers in your region.
Can I work in Germany?
After three months in the asylum processes you can apply for the right to work by showing the Ausländerbehörde a job contract that you already have. They can give you a work permit for that job. But you will only be given the work permit if no other german, european person or migrant who already has a residence permit is able to do the same job. After 15 months in Germany you can get a normal work permit for any job. If you get a positive decision from the BAMF you immediately have the right to work in any job you find and also to get an education. With papers you will also get money (404 € a month if you are single) and the Jobcenter will pay for your room during the time that you do not have work.
What if I need to see a doctor?
During the first 15 months of your asylum case you have only access to emergency health care or if you need urgent care for pain or serious conditions. Before you go to see a doctor you need to get a so called Krankenschein (health insurance certificate) from the social welfare office. In a few regions you will receive an electronic health card that gives you easier access to medical care. If you are pregnant you can be accompanied during your pregnancy or if you choose to not to continue the pregnancy you can have an abortion. Abortions are legal in Germany during the first three months of the pregnancy or for specific medical reasons.
What if I am a minor (under 18) and without my family?
You will get a room in a house with other refugees under 18. There will be social workers to support you. You also get food and some money. You can go to school, learn German and get an education. You should have the opportunity to learn a job (like mechanic etc.) and after you have finished it is possible to get a job. If you got a positive decision from the BAMF on your asylum claim you/your family can apply for a visa at the Germany embassy for your parents to come to Germany.
What about my family?
Only once you have been granted asylum or have refugee status, your husband/wife and your minor children have the right to come to Germany as well. This is called Familienzusammenführung. Since the procedure is quite complicated, it is better to get in touch with a lawyer or an organization that is familiar with the procedure. People that were granted asylum (according to Art. 16 a GG) or were recognized as refugees (§ 3 AsylG) can apply for family reunification. Please make sure that you apply within the first three months after your positive decision. If you apply later you have to assure you have enough money for your family’s living. Go to the Ausländerbehörde and tell them that you are applying for the family reunification. Your family has to go to the German embassy in their home country to apply for a family reunification visa.
People with a subsidiary protection status need to wait for two years before they can apply for family reunification.
What about the interview?
It is very important that you prepare for the interview. Before, try to speak to an advice service or lawyer. Be sure you know your story very well. Prepare dates and details in advance because they will look for contradictions in your story. It is good to give lots of concrete details about your reasons for leaving your country. Have as much evidence as you can to show threats to your life, physical injuries or false imprisonment. For example: medical or legal reports, newspaper articles, documents or letters to show you are in danger, letters to show membership to a social/religious/political group, arrest warrants etc. You must try to show that there is a real future risk to yourself in your home country and that you can not be protected anywhere inside your country. You will maybe have to say why Germany in particular should be responsible for your protection.
In the interview take your time, ask for a break, and if you did not understand a question then ask again. Feel free to say anything without shame or embarrassment. If you have a problem with the translator, you can say it. Women can ask to be interviewed by a woman and have a woman translator. At the end, only sign the transcript if you are happy with it and sure there are no mistakes. You can ask for a copy of it. If you are not happy with the transcript or how the interview went then speak to a lawyer or support organisation.
More details about asylum:
Your application will be used to decide if you have already experienced persecution, or whether you fear future persecution, if you returned to your country of origin. The primary elements of persecution are seen as threats to life, physical injuries and false imprisonment. Other threats to your life, body and freedom will be considered, such as human rights violations based on discrimination, danger due to war or civil war and serious health dangers caused by an illness. But asylum will only be granted, if you are persecuted due to racial, religious, political reasons or due to your nationality or your membership of a particular social group. To sum this up: What has happened to you back home? And why did that happen to you?
The legal definition of a refugee is: “A person with a well founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group”.
Dublin III agreement
The Dublin III agreement can be used to decide that your asylum procedure must be processed in another European country, if for example you have already registered or applied for asylum in another country, if you came with a visa for another country or if there is evidence to show you spent time in another European country. You can be deported back to this country. If you were in Greece, you will not be deported to Greece, but your procedure will be made longer. You can make an appeal (Eilantrag) against being deported to another European country but you have to make it within 1 week after having been told about your deportation. But also many people that get letters that a Dublin case has been opened do not in fact get deported from Germany. Still you should contact a lawyer or organization if you get such a letter. From the date when your Dublin procedure is opened, they only have 6 months time to deport you, otherwise your Dublin case should be finished. If you go underground for 18 months then your Dublin case will also be finished. But keep in mind that going underground can impact negatively on your chances for getting papers.
What if I am a victim of torture or political persecution?
You should make that clear in your interview. It can be very hard to talk about torture, but it is important that you declare it as soon as possible. Victims of Torture should be recognized as vulnerable persons in the EU asylum process and may be treated differently than other applicants (for example they should not be detained).
What if I am a woman?
Certain persecution happens almost only to women, and are recognised as asylum grounds, such as : rape , forced sterilization , laws or customs and rules that discriminate women in your country; such as disproportionate punishment for female adultery, forced marriage and genital mutilation, or when violence against women is used as a weapon in a conflict. You need to show either that your country is responsible for this persecution or that your country and its laws do not protect you from it. German asylum law recognises this as political persecution if the state of origin does not provide sufficient protection. If some facts of your personal story are difficult to say in front of your family, you have the right to meet your lawyer or support organisation alone.
What if I am gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans*/inter*/queer?
It is sometimes possible to claim asylum based on the fact that you are LGBTIQ. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Inter people are recognized under EU asylum law as people facing persecution based on membership to a particular social group . You must prove that due to your sexual orientation you will be severely punished in your home country. They might ask you specific questions, for example to tell them typical places in your country where people like you meet. An LGBTIQ applicant in Germany coming from a country that criminalizes homosexuality must show that the punishment is “unbearably severe and in every sense completely unreasonable. ” Before you have your interview, try to talk to a lawyer or an organization that is familiar with preparing people for the interview.
What happens if I am granted protection?
Once you get a positive decision on your asylum claim, you will get a residence permit up to three years, depending on your status. With residency in Germany, it is possible to take part in free German language courses to improve your chance of getting a job. You will receive social welfare from the Jobcenter until you are able to support yourself. You may travel to but not live or work in other European countries. Furthermore, you cannot travel to your country of origin, otherwise you will loose your residence permit immediately.
Is it possible to stay in Germany forever?
This depends on the status you were granted and the situation in your country. If you were granted asylum (according to Art. 16 a GG) or were recognized as refugees (§ 3 AsylG) you get a residence permit for three years with full rights. After that three years you get a permanent residence permit if your reasons for leaving your country still exist and if you have not traveled to your home country. That one lasts forever and after you get your permanent resident permit you can travel back to your country. It only can be removed if you commit serious crimes or leave the country more than six month without agreement with the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office). If you got subsidiary protection you get a residence permit for 1 year and then for 2 years. You can extend that residence permit again and again as long the reason for your protection still exists (for example civil war…). If the BAMF gave you the lowest protection status, called obstacles to deportation (Abschiebungsverbot, according to § 60 V, VII S. 1 AufenthG), in this case they usually also give you a residence permit if they think the obstacles will exist for a longer time. You can get the permanent residence permit (like every foreigner) after 5 years living in Germany with a residence permit and having paid 60 times monthly into a retirement pension.
What happens if I am not given protection?
If you are rejected, the Federal Office will write to you with the result. It is possible to appeal a rejection but you have to do it within 1 week in writing or you go to the court and appeal orally at the so called Rechtsantragsstelle (appeal office). You will find details about the procedure on the last page of the negative decision letter. Going to court does not cost anything. If you want a lawyer, you need to find one on your own. The lawyer you chose can try to apply for financial aid.
In the case of Duldung (toleration), this means you are rejected but not able to travel or you don’t have a passport for deportation or the situation in your home country makes it impossible for you to return. This is a short-term agreement for a few weeks but can be extended to several years. You are legally allowed to work but practically it is very difficult the first 4 years. It is possible to get training for a job.
If it is not your fault that you cannot be deported for 18 months, a residence permit can be granted.
If chances of getting asylum seem low, marrying a partner with European papers will give you a residency permit. You need to have – among other things – a valid passport, your birth certificate and a certificate that you are not already married (as well as official translations of all documents) and then make an appointment at the office where you officially marry, called Standesamt. The procedure will take a long time. After getting married, you might have to leave the country and apply at the German embassy in your home country for a visa. It is important to start the marriage procedure as early as possible, before you are rejected, and to talk to a lawyer or counsellor and have a support group around you.
If you have a child with a German citizen or a person with a permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) who has stayed in German at least 8 years you can get a residence permit as well. For someone to be accepted as the official father of a child, you need to go to a solicitor ‘Notar’ and do a procedure called Vaterschaftsanerkennung. Both of you must sign this and pay a little money. But you do not need biological proof of fatherhood. If you are a woman and you give birth here in Germany, you can do the same procedure to get your partner (who has permanent residency here) registered as the father. Again you do not need biological proof of fatherhood.
As family law is strong in Germany, doing these two things will help you get papers. Contact a lawyer or support group to talk about other options which are linked to family, children and marriage.
What is Church asylum?
A rare and difficult option is to try to get church asylum. This means going to one church community and convincing the priest that you need humanitarian support. The priest then has to convince the church council to support you. It is a possibility if you are without papers “illegal” in Germany, if the state tries to deport you because of Dublin or if your asylum application has been wrongfully denied. Often this only works with people with very dramatic stories or if you have an especially difficult situation. It is important to note that church asylum does NOT give you papers, it only gives you time.
What if I get I.D. controlled?
In Germany the police has the right to stop you in the street and ask for your identification papers. If you do not have them they can take you to the police station to find out who you are. They can keep you in detention up to the end of the following day, that means, no longer than 48 hours.
What if I get arrested?
You should be informed of your rights upon arrest. If you do not speak German, an interpreter has to explain what your rights are. Ask for this. You will then be asked to sign a document confirming that you were informed of your rights. You have the right to ask for an interpreter for free and to make a phone call, see a doctor and a lawyer and your embassy might get informed, if you are not an asylum seeker or refugee.
How can I live here without papers?
Some people live in Germany without residence permit. Some come secretly to work in Germany. Others once had a residence permit, but lost it. There are also those who hide after their application for asylum has been refused. ‘Hiding’ means not showing up to your lager and making sure others in your camp do not know where you are living. People who hide have to rely a lot on their community. The living conditions of illegalised people are hard because they cannot claim social rights such as medical help, although there are some health care organisations who help people without papers. They might find work but, as illegal labourers, can be exploited by their employer. But it still stays a possibility to not follow the official request to leave Germany, but rather stay here secretly. The police will not actively search for you, but if you are I.D controlled for example in the street or on public transport, you can be detained and deported. In case of getting caught by the police, the sanction can be a monetary penalty or imprisonment up to one year. If you decide to stay in Germany illegalized it can be helpful to contact a support organisation.
More information on: www.w2eu.info
Useful contacts around Berlin
Your situation is very difficult but please keep on fighting for your rights. There are many people who are in solidarity with you and want to support you. Having contact with organisations and networking with groups and individuals can also be very helpful!
ADVICE AND INFORMATION
KUB – Information centre, advice in many languages, meeting, legal aid
Telephone. 030 614 94 00, 030 614 94 04, 030 531 42 119
Website in many languages with lots of information: http://www.kub-berlin.org/ email: kontakt@kub-berlin.
Morusstr. 18 A, Neukölln,12053 Berlin email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Asyl in der Kirche Berlin – ‘Asylum in the church’ legal counselling
Address: Zossener Straße 65 , 10961 Berlin Telephone: 03069598525
Email: email@example.com http://www.kirchenasyl-berlin.de/
Verein iranischer Flüchtlinge in Berlin – Counselling for iranian and afghani refugees
Telephone: 030 – 62 98 15 30 Address: Reuterstr. 52, Neukölln , 12047 Berlin
Monday. 11- 14 . Tuesday and Wednesday 10- 13. Thursday 13-15. Friday – only by appointment.
Nevenda Kurdi – Social and legal counselling for refugees in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic
email: Kurdisches.Zentrum@gmx.net http://www.kurdisches-zentrum.de/kontakt.html
They have many contacts to legal counselling and support networks in your area. Here is their address book: http://www.fluechtlingsinfo-berlin.de/fr/arbeitshilfen/adrflueberatung.pdf
Migrationsrat Berlin-Brandenburg – Information about migrant rights
Oranienstr. 34, 10999 U1, U8, (U Kottbusser Tor) Bus M29 (Adalbertstr./Oranienstr.)
Office: 030 – 61658755 Advice: 030 – 60031139 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PRO ASYL – Independent human rights organisation on asylum
Telephne: 069 – 24 23 14 20 (Mon-Fri: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-16.00)
A website full of information and links: http://www.flamingo-berlin.org/
Welcome2europe – Many contacts for all over Germany: http://w2eu.info/germany.en/articles/germany-contacts.en.html
JOB CENTRE ADVICE
Hartzerroller at Südblock cafe – Advice about how to get support from the Job Centre.
Every tuesday at 10 o’clock at Südblock cafe, Admiralstr. 1-2, next to Kottbusser Tor. In English or German.
Basta at Scherer 8 – Advice about how to get support from the Job Centre.
Tuesdays 2 – 5 o’clock. English, Italian, German, German Sign Language (DGS)
Wednesdays – 10 – 1 o’clock. English, Spanish, German.
Thursdays – 3 – 6 o’clock. English, German, Romanian and German sign language (DGS)
Translation of job centre forms and other bureacracy forms and applications, for example child benefit etc. http://www.kub-berlin.org/formularprojekt/en/
UNACCOMPANIED UNDER 18 REFUGEES
Paulsenstr. 55-56, 12163 Tuesday 15.00 – 19.00, Wednesday 10.00 – 13.00, Friday 10.00 – 13.00
Alafia – Supporting children refugees
BBZ – Social and legal counselling and care centre for young refugees
Turmstr. 72, Floor 4, 10551 Berlin , Monday 11-17.00 open drop in. For appointment contact these emails:
Psychological support: email@example.com 030 78 95 93 96
Social support: firstname.lastname@example.org 030 28 87 95 11
SOLWODI – Solidarity with women in distress
BIG Hotline – Aid for women and children who are victims of domestic violence
Telephone.: 030 611 03 00. Phone 24 hours a day
Al Nadi – Meeting, advice and courses for arabic women
Telephone: 030 – 85 20 60 2. Rheinstrasse 53-54. Monday to Friday 9.30 to 16.00 oclock. Languages: Arabic, German
Ban Ying – Helping migrant women who have experienced violence, exploitation or human trafficking
BAIP – Advice for African Women.
Meeting and information: Reuterstr. 78, 12053 Berlin Telephone: 030 624 10 11
list of emergency shelters, rape support, drop ins and migrant women’s organisations : http://www.interkulturelle-initiative.de/de_DE/oeffentlichkeit/kooperation
GAY AND LESBIAN / LGBTQI
LesMigraS – Counselling, support, self empowerment for Lesbian/bisexual Migrants, Black Lesbians and Trans*People
Kleiststraße 35, 10787 Berlin email@example.com https://berlin.lsvd.de/projekte/miles/
Tuesdays between 10 am and 6 pm. Make an appointment with Jouanna Hassoun
Support, counselling, meeting point for homosexual/queer refugees https://www.schwulenberatungberlin.de/sprache/english/ Meeting other queer refugees and advice and support. English, Arabic, German, Spanish, French. You need help or information? Every Tuesday & Friday from 2:00 to 6:00 pm (no appointments needed) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kuchus at Schwulenberatung Berlin, Wilhelmstraße 115, 10963 Berlin – Kreuzberg
Malteser Migranten Medizin – Medical practice for people without a health insurance
Aachener Str. 12, 10713 Berlin-Wilmersdorf,
Telephone: 030 82 72 26 00 email: MMMedizin@malteser-berlin.de
Bus 249: Brabanter Platz http://www.malteser-migranten-medizin.de/mmm-vor-ort/berlin.html
Büro für Medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe – Medical support for people without papers
BzFO – aid for people who have experienced torture
Xenion- psychosocial support for people who have experienced political persecution. http://xenion.org
Paulsenstr. 55-56, 12163 Berlin , Telephone: 030 3232933 Monday to Thursday 10.00 to 12.00
Refugee phrasebook with useful words and phrases http://www.refugeephrasebook.de/
Free german courses and tandem partners: KUB. Address: Oranienstr. 159, 10969. Telephone: 030 / 614 94 00 email@example.com http://www.kub-berlin.org/index.php/en/german-classes/164-german-courses
Network for free German classes for Refugees in Berlin (including women only courses and courses with childcare) http://www.netzwerk-deutschkurse-fuer-alle.de/course-overview/
Union support on labour issues. You have working rights even if you are undocumented!
Arbeitskreis Undokumentiertes Arbeiten Berlin
Self organisations of refugees and migrants:
Oplatz- refugee movement in Berlin http://oplatz.net/
The VOICE Refugee Forum – A Network of Refugee Initiatives in Germany supporting strugglings in camps and against the Apartheid in isolation camps, deportations, descriminatory laws and social exclusion.
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , http://www.thevoiceforum.org, Berlin telephone: 0049-(0)1708788124,
The International Women’s Space – a group of refugee and migrant women fighting together against Europe’s immigration system. https://iwspace.wordpress.com/ +49 152 1485 5720 email@example.com, Meetings on Wednesdays at the Stadtteilbüro Friedrichshain, Warschauer Str. 23, 10243 Berlin
See free or donation- solidarity- events and political stuff of the left scene on: https://stressfaktor.squat.net/termine.php . Here is a list of places where people meet and share every week. Entry is free and there is food on a donation basis. https://stressfaktor.squat.net/kuefa.php?day=all
Start with a friend: This website connects refugees with people in Berlin who want to support people and help with administration and starting a new life. http://www.start-with-a-friend.de/refugees
Shower and clothes washing – Heilehaus. Waldemarstr. 36, 10999 Berlin , everyday 11:00 to 19:00 . Sa, So, Mo: Men and women. . Mo+Fr: Men, Tues+Thurs:Women
Search for missing family members https://www.facebook.com/searchandfindrefugees
Information about protective marriage in English, French, German, Russian, Turkish, Serbo-croatian, Spanish.
Schlafplatz – a project to connect refugees looking for a place to live with shared flats who have a spare room: firstname.lastname@example.org 0176 – 37 32 54 99 https://www.facebook.com/schlafplatzorga/
Watch the Med – Alarm Phone +334 86 51 71 61 www.facebook.com/watchthemed.alarmphone
If your friends or your family are going to travel towards Europe, please share our emergency number with them. We offer a 24 hour emergency telephone for people in distress on sea.
List of emergency shelters, night cafes, day centres, soup kitchens, medical and advice: http://www.kaeltehilfe-berlin.de/PDFs/KH_Wegweiser%202015_2016.pdf