On Wednesday, November 5th, the German Bundestag approved a draft amending the Law on Administrative Asylum Procedures‘ paragraph 29a, which determines the so called Safe Countries of Origin. The Annex II is thereby extended to include the non-EU countries Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. Therefore, people’s claim fleeing the respective Balkan countries will be considered manifestly unfounded, a measure especially affecting Roma, who still suffer from severe inequality in these countries.
The safe countries of origin or safe third country mechanism is a procedural tool of shuttling asylum seekers back to a country that is said to have primary responsibility, thereby avoiding exactly this responsibility. It thus has the immediate effect of keeping refugees closer to, or even within their country of origin, ergo further minimizing the portion of refugees being able to claim asylum inside the European Union.
The concept has its origin in the Dublin regulation, which established a similar rule for member states of the European Union. The first ‘safe’ country to record an asylum seeker is responsible for her/his protection, any secondary movement of the person is considered migration, thus falling under a whole different set of rules and procedures, making denial of access far easier.
The procedure and its expanding area of application has been heavily criticized by Human Rights organizations for being dismissive towards principles of international law, like the responsibility to protect. Especially the rule of non-refoulement, probably the most widely recognized and crucial elements of refugee law, suffers from the indiscriminating character of the ‘safe country deportation practices.’ The principle stipulates that no person shall be returned to situations, where their mental or physical integrity is severely threatened, due to the risk of being tortured, death penalty, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, as well as indiscriminate violence. Where there is no access to a refugee status determination procedure, this risk cannot be examined.
Furthermore, the law amends the absolute prohibition of occupation for refugees, cutting it to three months. The so-called priority test, however persists, even after this period, instructing employers to privilege German and EU citizens over any refugee, disregarding their qualification.