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In the run-up to the EU elections, the AfD is spreading false claims about a refugee programme

Migration
Fact-check

CORRECTIV Faktencheck, Germany

16 May 2019, Updated: 22 May 2019

The German far-right party AfD claims in a Facebook post that “1.4 million” asylum seekers are waiting for “their tickets to Germany” and that the government wants to impose a “duty of integration” on German citizens. This claim distorts and exaggerates what is actually planned.

In a Facebook post from 7 May the AfD wrote: “1.4 million are waiting for their tickets to Germany! And we’re supposed to pay for them?” In the text of the post the party claims that the German government wants to “impose a duty of integration” on citizens. It also claims that a new reception programme will bring “thousands of immigrants to our country, without (!) any asylum checks, in association with the UNHCR”.

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AfD Facebook post from 7 May. (Screenshot: CORRECTIV)

The post includes a reference to the European election and therefore forms part of the election campaign. It has so far been shared 4188 times on Facebook.

The claims are also repeated in a post on “Svens-Welt-05”, the personal Facebook page of Sven Liebich, a German blogger. Liebich adds that the plans amount to a program of “Umvolkung” [forced population change].

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Post on the Svens-Welt-05 Facebook page. (Screenshot: CORRECTIV)

Germany has been participating in resettlement programmes since 2012

The background to the post is a new reception program called “NesT – New Start as a Team” (PDF), which has been set up jointly by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, it is intended as a supplement to existing resettlement schemes.

The resettlement programme is not new: according to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany has been accepting refugees under this scheme since 2012: 300 in each of the first three years, 500 available places per year since 2015.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Germany has announced that it will take a total of 10,200 vulnerable individuals in 2018 and 2019 as part of another EU resettlement programme that aims to resettle a total of 50,000 vulnerable people across the EU as a whole.

EU Commission figures show that 15,600 of these have already been successfully resettled (PDF; page 4). According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this kind of resettlement programme is intended for people “whose lives, freedom, safety or health are at risk in the country where they first sought asylum” – for example, if they have experienced torture, or require better medical care, or are at higher risk because of their gender or age.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the NesT – New Start as a Team project is a pilot programme enabling Germany to include up to 500 especially vulnerable refugees in the total humanitarian intake planned for 2018/2019 – in other words, 500 out of the 10,200 people the country has already committed to taking.

“1.4 million asylum seekers” that citizens will have to pay for?

In its Facebook post, the AfD repeatedly links this NesT programme with a claimed “1.4 million asylum seekers”. The party claims that German citizens will have a “duty of integration” “imposed” on them and will be required to “meet the costs of the new arrivals”. Where does this claim come from?

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the NesT programme involves each of 500 vulnerable refugees, or each of their families, having at least 5 volunteers assigned to them to act as mentors and, between them, to pay their basic rent for “appropriate accommodation” for two years, and also to assist them in their search for school or kindergarten places, or for jobs.

This means that some citizens will indeed provide financial support to the refugees selected, although this support is limited to their basic rent and does not cover all their living costs. It is not true that anyone will have a “duty of integration” “imposed” on them: the programme mentors will all be volunteers.

And the “1.4 million”? The NesT programme brochure says this: “According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 1.4 million especially vulnerable refugees urgently need the chance to live in a different country from the one where they first sought asylum, either because their lives, freedom, safety, health and other basic rights continue to be at risk in their asylum country, or because there are other reasons why it is not reasonable to expect them to stay there.”

The 1.4 million figure is therefore the UNHCR’s assessment of the total number of people currently considered especially vulnerable – it does not follow, however, that these people are “waiting for their tickets to Germany”, as claimed by the AfD.

Will refugees really be accepted “without asylum checks”?

The AfD’s claim that the NesT programme would bring “thousands of immigrants” into the country “without any asylum checks whatsoever” is repeated in an article on the Compact-Online website, dated 8 May: “Germany wants to extend the legal routes to immigration and take in especially vulnerable ‘refugees’ such as pregnant women and sick or disabled people without asylum checks.”

Both the AfD and Compact-Online suggest that the NesT programme is a kind of short-cut, allowing refugees to come to Germany unchecked.

This is not the case, however, as can be seen from the Federal Ministry of the Interior Directive on the German Resettlement Programmes, dated 11 December 2018 (PDF). This sets the criteria for selection, including “integration ability”, schooling, professional training and language skills, as well as “screening by the security authorities”. Furthermore, according to the UNHCR, only refugees who have already “sought protection” in another country are eligible for selection.

This means that asylum processes are already underway for each of the vulnerable individuals – they just will not be required to re-apply in Germany. Those selected for resettlement programmes receive an initial residence permit restricted to three years.

Our assessment:

Mostly false. No, German citizens will not have a “duty of integration” “imposed” on them, and the claim that “1.4 million” people are waiting for “their tickets to Germany” is mere speculation – the programme depends on volunteers and is initially limited to 500 refugees.

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