What Benefits and Rights Do Asylum Seekers Get in Germany?
Asylum seekers represent some of the most vulnerable in our society. Having sought a place of safety in Europe, while their application for asylum protection is being processed, many need assistance with shelter, food, clothing, medicine, and the other basic essentials of life. Indeed, asylum seekers are especially susceptible to destitution and starvation (especially asylum seekers with families to feed) and are highly reliant on the goodwill provided by charitable institutions who understand their plight. One of the primary destinations for asylum seekers is Germany, who with France, Spain, and Greece, take in the lion’s share of those seeking protection. So much so, that 142,000 asylum seekers registered in Germany in 2019 representing nearly one-quarter of all those in the EU. In this article, we will outline the assistance provided by Germany to asylum seekers, in the form of benefit and rights.
The Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (AsylbLG)
The benefits provided (and the conditions which apply) to Asylum seekers in Germany are defined in the Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz (the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act), which was originally introduced in 1993. This means that those seeking refuge from conflict and oppression in their home countries can claim assistance in the form of benefits and welfare when they apply for asylum in Germany. The Act lays out who is entitled to assistance from the Government, namely, anyone applying for asylum in Germany from the time they make their application, and also provides for those who have a date for departure due to deportation. Asylum seekers whose application has been refused and who are to be deported but do not leave on the expected date of departure will only be entitled to receive basic benefits; “Until they leave the country or their deportation is carried out, they will only be granted benefits to cover their needs for food and accommodation, including heating, as well as body and health care”. An exception may be made, however, if the individual was unable to leave due to reasons outside of their control (e.g. due to COVID-19 travel restrictions).
The Act was revised in 2015 to raise the level of welfare available to 90% of other social benefits, and allows asylum seekers to receive full benefits and healthcare after 15 months.
What Benefits Do Asylum Seekers Receive In Germany?
The benefit provided to a single adult asylum seeker in Germany is €354 per month. €219 of this is intended for food, rent, clothing, health, and other personal items, and €135 is "pocket money”. This amount only applies to those who are being housed outside of an accommodation centre. Those in accommodation centres only receive €135 per month.
For couples, the amount of benefits are reduced to €318 (if in an accommodation centre) and €135 (if not in an accommodation centre). Household members receive the following:
- If over 18 years: €284 or €108 (respectively)
- If aged between 14 and 17 years: €276 or €76 (respectively)
- If aged between 6 and 14 years: €242 or €83 (respectively)
- If aged between under years: €214 or €79 (respectively)
These benefits are intended to cover food, accommodation, heating, clothing, personal hygiene and other consumer items needed for the household. In addition, costs associated with acute healthcare needs, pregnancy, and birth are also included. The amount provided to those in asylum seeker accommodation centres is less is because the cost of food, shelter, heating, clothing, and other personal essentials are covered.
On this matter, the Act states, “In the case of accommodation in reception facilities within the meaning of Section 44 (1) of the Asylum Act, the necessary needs are covered by benefits in kind. If clothing cannot be provided, it can be granted in the form of vouchers or other comparable non-cash statements. Household goods can be made available on loan. The necessary personal needs should be covered by benefits in kind, as far as this is possible with a reasonable administrative effort. If benefits in kind for necessary personal needs are not possible with justifiable administrative effort, benefits in the form of vouchers, other comparable cashless accounts or cash benefits can also be granted”.
Are Benefits Provided Automatically To Asylum Seekers In Germany?
No, while asylum seekers are entitled to benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, they must be applied for separately once an application for asylum has been submitted. Those who have claimed asylum need to visit their local social welfare office to claim for any benefits they are entitled to. The documentation requirements vary between social welfare offices, however, it is recommended that applicants take their passport, and proof (where possible):
- that they have applied for asylum
- of their address in Germany
- of their income and costs (in the form of a bank statement and copies of bills)
- rental contract (if not housed in an accommodation centre)
It is also advisable to open a German bank account which will enable monthly benefits to be made directly.
Can An Asylum Seeker Work In Germany?
The Asylum Seekers Benefits Act allows asylum seekers to work, but any amount earned through employment may reduce the amount of benefits available. Any local security welfare office will be able to advise on this. Typically around one-quarter of employment earnings do not reduce the amount of social benefits received. This means that the remainder of what is earned through paid employment may reduce how much is received, however, this will not impact on the amount of benefit for rent.
The benefits provided and rights conferred on asylum seekers in Germany can make the difference between living in destitution and being able to cover the basic costs of living. Anyone asylum seeker in Germany who is unsure of the benefits and other help available in their local region should contact their nearest social welfare office to enquire. Other discretionary benefits beyond the standard financial assistance may also be available depending on your circumstances. In short, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
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