The German government is to downgrade the status of Syrian migrants so that those granted refugee status can only stay for two years and are not entitled to bring their families with them.
According a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) will now only grant “subsidiary protection” to Syrians fleeing civil war.
Until now, they have had “primary protection”, granting them the right to stay in Germany for up to three years and allowing them to bring their families to stay with them.
BAMF says that in August some 55,600 Syrians requested asylum in the country, with 38,650 currently holding legal refugee status. Only 53 currently hold “subsidiary protection”.
Now Germany’s governing “grand coaltion” of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Socialists has agreed to suspend the right to family reunification and allow Syrians to stay for just a year.
Horst Seehofer, Minister-President of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union – which is permanent coalition with Angela Merkel’s CDU – had been pushing strongly for a tougher immigration policy. He hailed the decision as a victory, saying it was “a sensational success to arrive in such a short space of time from a pure culture of welcome to a realistic refugee policy.”
Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Thomas de Mazière said it was a “gain in security and order for Germany.”
The decision is a blow for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had previously stated that all Syrian migrants were welcome to stay in Germany. The policy was welcomed by the cultural left but caused division within Germany, especially in the state of Bavaria which has borne the brunt of the migrant influx.
There have been increasing reports of violence in asylum centres and growing protests from ordinary Germans. The PEGIDA movement, which many observers thought moribund, has been increasing in numbers again over the previous weeks.