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German minister defends Ukrainian refugees’ privileges

People fleeing the conflict in Ukraine get higher social benefits and can start working right away, unlike other refugees

Germany should go on with a policy that automatically grants Ukrainian refugees a stay permit without the need to go through the asylum request processing, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil said on Saturday. The EU jointly decided in June that Ukrainians would not be required to go through the normal asylum procedures reserved for refugees from all other parts of the world.

“People are fleeing a terrible war that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin instigated,” Heil told the German Tagesspiegel daily, adding that “there is nothing to take back” from them.

In Germany, Ukrainian refugees are thus automatically treated like the recipients of Harz IV – a complex system of German social welfare and unemployment benefits, the national media report. That means higher aid payments and an immediate work permit among other things.

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FILE PHOTO: Refugees from Ukraine arrive at an arrival center on the tarmac of the former Tegel airport in Berlin, March 20, 2022
EU politicians criticize Ukrainian ‘welfare tourism’

Normally, asylum seekers have to go through a complex and multi-stage asylum processing, which can last many months, according to some reports. One such report said that, back in the second quarter of 2020, an average processing time for such an application amounted to 10 months. During that time, an asylum seeker gets lower aid payments under the Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act and has no right to work in Germany.

Exemption granted to Ukrainians benefits both them and the local authorities, Heil argued, adding that basic social benefits are largely covered by the federal government. Yet, Berlin’s policy has seemingly faced resistance at many levels.

The leader of the largest opposition party – the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – Friedrich Merz blamed the authorities for encouraging what he called “social tourism” on the part of Ukrainians. The “refugees” had been supposedly traveling back and forth between Germany and Ukraine they had allegedly fled, he claimed in late September.

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FILE PHOTO: Refugees from Ukraine are housed in an emergency shelter, in Radolfzell, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, on August 26, 2022.
German cities overwhelmed with Ukrainian refugees – media

Heil brushed off these comments by saying they only “poison” the political and social climate. “We are currently experiencing the largest refugee influx since WWII and have managed to help hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine,” the minister said.

Yet, the local authorities that are expected to be relieved through this policy, do not appear to be particularly supportive of it as well. According to Reinhard Sager, the head of the German municipalities association, such measures send the wrong signal. Eventually, it would only lead to an even higher refugee influx to Germany, he argued.

In early October, heads of some two dozen municipalities in the southwestern state of Baden-Wurttemberg warned that German cities and towns were already overwhelmed with asylum seekers amid a massive influx from Ukraine.

Human rights organizations also criticized Berlin for singling out Ukrainians and granting poorer status to other refugees, Germany’s Tagesschau news outlet reports. The number of Ukrainian refugees living in Germany surpassed the one million mark at the end of September, according to the Interior Ministry.

https://ift.tt/fUQGCu3 17, 2022 at 02:49AM
from RT – Daily news

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