At the end of 2002, Germany hosted about 104,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including 38,500 asylum seekers awaiting first-instance decisions; around 33,000 non-Albanians from Kosovo, many with toleration status (Duldung); some 24,000 Bosnians, mostly holding toleration status or temporary residence permits, and about 8,100 persons granted either asylum or protection against refoulement during the year.

About 91,500 persons sought asylum in Germany in 2002. Some 71,100 filed first-time applications and about 20,400 persons resubmitted applications after a denial or receipt of another status. This total represents an almost 22 percent decrease from the 118,000 applicants in 2001.

During 2002, the largest number of asylum seekers came from Turkey (14,000), followed by Yugoslavia (13,800), Iraq (10,700), the Russian Federation (4,400), and Iran (3,600).

The Federal Office for Recognition of Foreign Refugees (Bundesamt) issued decisions on about 87,000 applications during 2002, granting asylum to about 2,400 (3 percent). The largest numbers of persons accepted came from Turkey (1,100), Iraq (450), Iran (280), and Syria (100). An additional 4,100 persons (roughly 5 percent) received protection against refoulement (Section 51 of the Aliens Act). The Bundesamt also granted toleration (under Section 53 of the Aliens Act) to about 1,600 applicants (roughly 2 percent).

Germany denied asylum and other forms of protection to about 79,000 persons in 2002. Of these, 26,600 or about 34 percent were denied as manifestly unfounded, down from 37 percent in 2001.

Asylum and Protection against Refoulement

German authorities may grant two forms of asylum to applicants: asylum under Section 16(a)(1) of the German Constitution on the grounds defined in Article 1 of the UN Refugee Convention; or they may be granted protection against refoulement under Section 51(1) of the Alien's Act based on the non-refoulement standard of Article 33 of the UN Refugee Convention. In general, however, since 1989, Germany has not recognized persecution by non-state actors as a ground for recognition of refugee status.

Those granted regular asylum receive unlimited residence permits. Those granted protection against refoulement receive temporary residence permits valid for two years that can be renewed. Eight years from the time they applied for asylum, they may receive unlimited residence permits.

Both groups are entitled to public assistance, including medical care. Both are free to settle and travel anywhere in Germany, and may work. However, only those granted regular asylum are eligible for government-funded German language training lasting six months, and may apply for family members to join them.

Persons granted protection against refoulement may sponsor relatives at the discretion of the Alien's office in the refugee's place of residence. The refugee must demonstrate the means to support family members, including adequate housing and income.

Germany also resettles refugees from abroad pursuant to Section 33 of the Aliens Act, although it has is no formal agreement with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for this.

Toleration Under Section 53 of the Alien's Act, the Bundesamt may also grant "toleration" (Duldung) status to persons denied asylum if they face torture, capital punishment, or any violation of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights upon return. Toleration status essentially means that the state agrees not to implement a valid deportation order, and the authorities grant a residence permit that is indefinite in duration. Nearly 300,000 persons held this status in Germany in 2002.

Because Germany generally does not recognize persecution by non-state actors in its asylum process, many bona fide Convention refugees must rely on toleration status for protection. Accordingly, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) counts certain classes of toleration status recipients as refugees in need of protection. (See, for example, non-Albanian Kosovars and Bosnians, below.)

War Refugees

Germany may also grant status to persons fleeing war, under Section 32 of the Aliens Act, but not to individuals applying for asylum or withdrawing an asylum application. Those granted war-refugee status receive temporary, renewable residence permits.

Asylum Procedures

In the normal determination procedure, the Bundesamt interviews all asylum applicants. Applicants may appeal negative decisions to an administrative court within two weeks. Such an appeal will suspend a deportation order. The procedure for appeal includes a hearing where the appellant must be present. Further appeals to the Upper Administrative court are available in limited circumstances.

Individuals are rarely able to make an asylum claim at a land border, since according to German law, claimants who travel through a safe third country are ineligible for asylum in Germany because they could have filed their claims in the first safe country of asylum. By statute, Germany deems all of the states that signed the Dublin Convention, as well as Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, which includes all of the states bordering Germany, to be safe third countries.

Officials may reject asylum claims at the border or claims of persons who crossed illegally into Germany if the asylum seeker has already received protection in another country, is in possession of a refugee document issued by another country under the terms of the UN Refugee Convention, or has stayed more than three months in a third country where he or she was safe from persecution. However, if the person can provide credible evidence that he or she was not safe from refoulement in the third country, the latter ground does not apply. Finally, if the applicant for asylum has been sentenced by a final decision to imprisonment in Germany for three years or more for a serious criminal offense, and he or she has left Germany within the last three years, his or her asylum claim may be rejected at the border.

Persons arriving from countries of origin deemed safe enter an accelerated procedure where they may show that the country is not safe for them as individuals. In 2002, Germany's list of safe countries of origin included Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ghana, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Senegal, and the Slovak Republic.

The vast majority of asylum seekers file applications after entering Germany. Like border applicants, persons applying inland are subject to the safe-third-country rule, but the authorities often lack the proof of the applicant's travel route (passport stamps, tickets, etc.) necessary to convince transit countries to readmit them. Many applicants destroy their travel documents and claim they cannot remember which countries they traveled through. If removal to a safe third country is impossible, applicants are admitted to the asylum procedure where authorities review their applications on the merits, but only for protection from refoulement.

Manifestly Unfounded Claims

Asylum claims may be rejected as manifestly unfounded if the applicant is fleeing for economic reasons or to escape a situation of general hardship or war, submits a claim that is not substantiated or does not coincide with known country conditions, gives false information or refuses to provide his or her identity or nationality, has submitted another application for asylum, has applied after termination of residence rights in Germany and had sufficient time previously to apply for asylum, has fundamentally failed to meet his or her obligation to cooperate with the authorities, or has been expelled for a serious criminal offence. Asylum seekers have seven days to appeal the decision to the administrative court.

Accelerated Airport Procedures

Asylum seekers arriving at German airports without proper travel documents or from safe countries of origin must remain at the airport, where officials decide their cases in an accelerated procedure. Oral hearings with a representative of the Bundesamt occur within 48 hours of the asylum seeker's arrival. If the Bundesamt rejects the case as manifestly unfounded at the airport, entry is refused. However, the applicant may file an appeal within three days, and the appeal suspends the removal order. The administrative court must decide on the appeal within 14 days, failing which the applicant is allowed to enter the country.

Restrictive Measures

German law requires airlines and other transportation companies to ensure that their passengers carry the necessary travel documents to enter Germany. A 1999 Federal Administrative Court ruling affirmed that airlines do not have the right to transport foreigners to Germany, including would-be asylum seekers, who do not meet German entry requirements, and that airlines can be subjected to sanctions if they do. Air carriers are required not only to pay for the cost of deporting foreigners, but also to assume all other public expenses incurred, including the cost of keeping prospective deportees in detention.

Reception, Employment and Public Assistance

Asylum seekers initially must stay at federally funded reception centers and may not leave the administrative district in which the center is located. After three months, asylum seekers move to municipally run collective centers.

Asylum seekers, persons granted protection against refoulement, refugees, and war refugees are eligible for only 80 percent of the public assistance available to citizens during their first three years in the country. In principle, assistance is to be given in kind, not in cash, and they only receive essential medical treatment. Those holding toleration status can have their public assistance reduced to what is deemed "absolutely necessary considering the circumstances of the individual case."

Regular refugees have the same entitlement to public assistance as German citizens. German authorities limit the freedom of movement of refugees dependent on public assistance, however, by restricting residence permits to specific districts of communities.

Asylum seekers may work 12 months after entering Germany, provided no German citizen or foreign national with permanent residence status is available to fill the job. War refugees with residence permits and regular refugees may work immediately.

Readmission Agreements

Prior to 2002, the German government had entered into a series of bilateral and multilateral readmission agreements with Algeria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Morocco, Norway, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia. Most of these agreements do not refer to asylum seekers and refugees, but apply to foreigners in general. In 2002, Germany signed agreements with Albania, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. None of these agreements had entered into force by year's end.

Dublin Convention Transfers

Germany received around 8,600 requests for transfers from other states under the Dublin Convention and accepted 7,000 of them resulting in 3,300 persons actually being transferred. Germany tried to transfer 4,700 persons to other signatory states. Around 3,400 were accepted and 2,100 persons were transferred pursuant to the Dublin Convention. (See "Dublin Convention" box, p. 176.)


Some 2,100 Kosovars returned voluntarily to Kosovo during 2002, while about 3,400 were deported (mostly ethnic Albanians). The government's stated policy was not to return non-Albanian Kosovars to Kosovo. UNHCR, however, reported that the government did deport a number of them anyway. In addition, the government deported ethnic Albanians from southern Serbia to Kosovo.

There are approximately 33,000 non-Albanian Kosovars in Germany, predominately Roma (21,500), Ashkali (6,300), and Egyptians (1,000), most holding toleration status. USCR counts them among refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection.

Some 12,500 Kosovars received a two-year residence permit pursuant to a regulation adopted in 2001 allowing those Kosovars who had resided in Germany for six years and had been employed for two years to apply.


Approximately 560 Bosnians repatriated during the year. Between 1992 and 1996, Germany gave war-refugee protection to between 320,000 and 350,000 Bosnians, about half of all Bosnians who sought protection in Western Europe during the Bosnian war. While the overwhelming majority of them have repatriated or been resettled in third countries, an estimated 24,000 Bosnians remained in Germany at the end of 2002, most with temporary residence permits or toleration status. USCR counts them as refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection because many have ethnically mixed marriages or come from areas where they would be ethnic minorities should they return and would possibly face persecution by non-state actors. Flight alternatives in other areas of Bosnia may not be reasonable due to economic constraints and property disputes.


In January of 2002, an anti-terrorism law entered into force excluding terrorists from refugee status pursuant to Article 1F of the UN Refugee Convention.

In June 2002, a new immigration law passed, but in December, the German Constitutional Court invalidated it due to defective parliamentary procedures. The law would have given refugee status to those fearing persecution by non-state actors and those fearing gender-based persecution. The law also would have given only temporary residence permits to all asylees. After three years, authorities could allow indefinite residence, under the law, if they determined that the requirements for refugee status were still being met. Persons granted protection against refoulement could also receive enhanced rights to family reunification.

The new law would also require immigrants to receive instruction in German law, culture, language, and society. Failure to attend the course would allow denial of unlimited residence permits.

After the law was struck down, the government said it would reintroduce the bill.


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