Tuesday, 21 September 2021 09:12

German parties and migration: Different priorities and concerns

Ahead of the German election next weekend, EURACTIV has asked all the major political parties to clarify their stance on migration – one of the more contentious issues in the European Union – and outline their vision of how migration should be handled within the bloc.

While there is broad agreement that the current European migration regime has to be reformed, the parties’ ideas diverge significantly.

The crisis in Afghanistan and the risk of a possible replay of the 2015 migration crisis has put the issue at the top of the EU and German political agenda and fuelled the debate surrounding the future of the EU migration regime and the New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission in September 2020.

While refugees account for only 10% of the migration to Germany, the debate is primarily concerned with questions related to the admittance and distribution of asylum seekers.

Germany is in dire need of labour migrants to address the shortage of skilled professionals. According to the chairman of the German federal labour agency, Detlef Scheele, the country needs around 400,000 immigrants per year to fill open job positions.

However, only the liberal FDP and the Greens have outlined a comprehensive migration policy framework that goes beyond the refugee debate and acknowledges the benefits of labour and educational migration for the job market.

New EU migration regime

All the major parties support the European Commission’s Asylum and Migration pact and agree the EU’s mandate in migration policy should be strengthened, but they emphasise different priorities and concerns.

While the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left party are primarily concerned with the distribution of refugees across the EU, the conservative CDU/CSU puts a greater emphasis on preventing a future influx of asylum seekers.

For the Social Democrats, currently the frontrunners in the opinion polls, the solidarity mechanism and shared responsibility in EU migration policy are among their key priorities.

“We will push for a functioning European asylum system that strikes the balance between solidarity and responsibility,” an SPD spokesperson told EURACTIV.

The SPD also emphasises that the Dublin asylum system needs a reset and that the distribution of refugees among member states under a common European scheme should be based on a “division of labour model”, where the history and interests of the member states are taken into account.

In a similar vein, the conservative CDU/CSU also stresses the need to reform the common European asylum system and implement a system of refugee distribution based on solidarity.

However, the conservatives argue that fighting the root causes of refugee migration should be at the top of the agenda and that “the primary goal has to be for people to have a life perspective in their country of origin or in its proximity,” a CDU spokesperson told EURACTIV.

Furthermore, the CDU/CSU and the liberal FDP both stress that the processing of asylum applications should already be initiated at the EU’s external borders and that refugees should only be admitted to the EU after their application has been reviewed in certain migration hotspots.

The Greens, on the other hand, strongly oppose this approach. “We reject any preselection of asylum seekers at the European external border,” a Green party spokesperson told EURACTIV.

Instead, the Greens are planning to register refugees at the European border and then relocate them in the member-states through a quota system.

German plans for Afghanistan

These rifts on migration policy are also visible in the different approaches towards refugees coming from Afghanistan.

While the CDU stresses the need to assist the countries neighbouring Afghanistan to ensure the safety of Afghan refugees, the SPD, the Greens, and the Left party say Germany should participate in the EU resettlement programmes and has the “moral duty” to admit refugees.

The CDU/CSU is especially keen to avoid a repetition of the refugee crisis of 2015 and wants to fight the root causes of migration by providing humanitarian help and entering into direct negotiations with the Taliban to ensure that the new regime keeps its promises to upholds human and women rights.

The CDU/CSU also stresses that the people who flee Afghanistan should get a “new life perspective” in the proximity of their home country. Therefore, the government will “assist the host states in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood,” a CDU spokesperson told EURACTIV.

However, for the SPD, the Greens, and the Left party, helping refugees in the region is not enough.

“It is a devastating message that the German government and NATO are leaving behind in Afghanistan,” the Green spokesperson for Europe, Jamila Schäfer, told EURACTIV.

Instead, Germany and the EU should implement admission quotas for vulnerable groups, Schäfer said.

The SPD prefers a similar approach:

“It is our responsibility that we increase resettlement programmes that are coordinated on the European level to get vulnerable persons to safety,” said the SPD spokesperson for migration, Lars Castellucci.