German police officers watch over a security check near the capital's Brandenburg Gate on December 31, 2016, as revellers arrive for New Year celebrations. Security has been tightened for the annual concert event, after a Tunisian man ploughed through a Christmas market on December 19, killing 12 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
The German Parliament has begun discussing a bill which would make it harder for rejected asylum seekers to avoid deportation. The ‘Orderly Return Bill’ would also mean that people facing deportation would be held in regular prisons.
The ‘Orderly Return Law’ is being debated for the first time in the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag. Approved by the cabinet in April, the bill contains several contentious proposals.

The proposals

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said there needs to be a more effective enforcement of the deportation of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected but who refuse to leave voluntarily.

His bill outlines measures to lower the threshold for deportation, among others. They include:

– a proposal to lock up rejected asylum seekers facing deportation in prisons with people convicted of legal offenses – though they would be in separate sections

– detention of rejected asylum seekers who refuse to give their identity

– a new category of “tolerated stay for persons with undetermined identity”

– reduced social welfare payments for asylum seekers already granted asylum in other EU member states

Why the government wants a new law

Last year 25,000 people were deported from Germany, just over one tenth of the number of people ordered to leave the country, according to the interior ministry. A further 31,000 deportations went awry and were unable to be carried out. In most cases, this was because authorities were unable to find the person to be deported.

What the opponents say

The bill has attracted criticism from the Greens, the left party ‘Die Linke’ and the Social Democrats, but also from some of the state attorney generals from the governing Christian Democratic party, who object to the proposal to put asylum seekers facing deportation in regular jails.

The interior ministry argues that there are only 480 places available in pre-deportation detention facilities across the country. Some in the CDU, including the chair of the internal affairs committee, Andrea Lindholz, believe the reforms need to go further to address this problem.

Civil society groups have widely condemned the bill, saying it would systematically reduce the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. The human rights organization, Pro Asyl, says the proposed law also targets people involved in refugee support, putting them at risk of being sentenced to five years in prison for counseling asylum seekers.

The German federation of welfare associations has expressed concern that, under the proposals, people with the weaker category of “tolerated stay” would be excluded from integration programs.

Diakonie, a Christian social services organization, said some of the proposed reforms violated European law.