German Court Decision
Asylum Seeker Benefits Ruled Inhumane
Asylum seekers in Germany are entitled to receive the same level of benefits as the country's welfare recipients, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday, saying that current levels are inhumane. Payments to refugees -- unchanged since 1993 -- are to be increased immediately.
Germany must increase benefits for asylum seekers and refugees, which are currently too low to guarantee a humane existence, the country's highest court ruled on Wednesday.
In the highly anticipated ruling, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe found that current state aid payments to asylum seekers, unchanged since 1993, must be recalculated by lawmakers in Berlin.
The new aid payments should approximately match the country's Hartz IV welfare benefits, which are the measure of the country's minimum subsistence level, the court found. Monthly Hartz IV payments for single adults amount to some €374 ($459) per month.
Until the new law can be drafted, the court ruled that interim provisions should be laid out to immediately distribute retroactive payments, starting from 2011, to the country's some 130,000 asylum seekers and refugees. These payments must be oriented to the social benefits received by German citizens, the court said.
Unchanged for nearly two decades, at €224 ($275) per month, state benefits for asylum seekers are nearly 47 percent lower than German welfare payments. But this level is clearly inadequate given significant cost increases in the country, the court found, adding that the current level does not correspond to the fundamental right to a humane level of subsistence.
'Minimum Level of Participation'
Not just Germans, but also foreigners are "equally" entitled to live under these conditions, which in addition to the "physical needs of people" also include "fostering interpersonal relationships" and a "minimum level of participation in social, cultural and political life."
The ruling focused on two separate cases involving refugees who have been living in Germany long-term. One of these people, a Kurd who fled Iraq in 2003, has been living in the country with a "tolerated" legal status since then. The second case involved an 11-year-old girl who was actually born in Germany to a Nigerian refugee. The child has since been granted German citizenship.
Doubting that their benefits complied with Germany's constitution, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia's social welfare court submitted the cases to the Federal Constitutional Court for review.