The conservative British government offers refugees money and sends them back to their home countries. What is causing outrage among the British is a completely legal route in Germany: around 11,000 asylum seekers voluntarily left the country last year in return for a bonus.

The adoption of the Rwanda law “Safety of Rwanda Bill” in London at the end of April was a bang, as the law signaled the possibility of abolishing British asylum law. What does the British initiative mean for German asylum practice?

The atmosphere in the Victorian State Hall of Westminster Palace must have been sombre when the Rwanda Bill was debated. A temporary power outage, which further darkened the light and mood, also contributed to this. One lord later aptly described the spectacle as a “funeral” for British asylum law. What happened?

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that the first refugees will soon be flown to Rwanda without any asylum procedures, followed by numerous other flights. Sunak stressed that the measure would represent a “fundamental change” in the global approach to migration.

The law required for this, which was heavily criticized by experts, lawyers and moralists, was even classified by the Supreme Court as illegal and a breach of international law.

Sunak persisted and introduced an “emergency law” that decreed Rwanda a safe state, minimized appeals and allowed authorities to ignore domestic court rulings.

The Prime Minister has promised that the first flight with rejected asylum seekers will take off for Rwanda in around ten weeks. Already, according to British media, a failed asylum seeker has been voluntarily brought to Rwanda, supported by an incentive program that guarantees him £3,000 and five years of food and accommodation.

This action is seen by the conservative government as an indication of the functionality of the controversial Rwanda Bill. At the same time, there were nationwide measures in England to detain more migrants destined for deportation. Yvette Cooper of the opposition Labor Party and Sir Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats criticized the measure as a desperate attempt to score political points ahead of the election by paying migrants to leave the country.

Great Britain is therefore taking a radically different path than the EU. After long negotiations, the EU states agreed on an asylum compromise at the end of 2023, which is considered a decisive step in European migration policy. The agreement stipulates that EU countries located on the Union’s external borders will receive greater support. In addition, fair responsibilities for the reception and processing of asylum applications should be distributed, which will relieve the burden on countries such as Greece and Italy. This point has long been a bone of contention, as many northern and central European countries resisted mandatory distribution of asylum seekers.

An important aspect of the compromise is the introduction of a “solidarity mechanism” that can be activated flexibly and provides both financial and physical support for the countries of first arrival. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser described the agreement as “very good news for Europe” and emphasized the importance of solidarity among the Member States.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised the agreement as a “historic moment” and described it as proof that the EU is capable of finding common solutions to complex challenges. She believes the compromise will help better control irregular migration while protecting the rights of asylum seekers. So while the government in Great Britain is challenging international law with controversial deportation plans, the EU is officially taking a different approach. But, what no one knows: In Germany, too, there are ways to deal with the issue of migration differently than the EU imagines.

The humanitarian funding program REAG/GARP 2.0 (Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany / Government Assisted Repatriation Program) of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) enables affected people to voluntarily return to their country of origin or to continue their migration to third countries that are willing to accept them .

This offers an alternative to the measures that are often perceived as coercive and supports those wishing to return with financial help and organizational support. In addition to travel costs, a starting bonus of up to around 2,000 euros as well as financial support for medical problems are covered.

However, this assistance has no legal entitlement and depends on the approval of local and state authorities. Specific support measures vary depending on the target region and the individual circumstances of the returnees.

According to the BAMF, 10,763 people traveled home through the program in 2023, most of them to Turkey (19%), North Macedonia (19%), Georgia (18%), Albania (10%) and Iraq (10th). %).

However, Germany’s return policy has one main problem: the willingness of the countries of origin to cooperate leaves much to be desired. For example, Morocco is strategically using the issue of repatriation of citizens to gain international support for the recognition of Western Sahara as part of its territory.

The country has concluded bilateral agreements with various European countries, including Spain and Sweden. Through these cooperations, Morocco was able to fend off pressure on the Western Sahara issue and get Sweden not to recognize Western Sahara’s independence.

In 2016, Morocco also agreed with Germany on an accelerated return procedure in return for German support in an EU legal dispute over an agricultural and fisheries agreement. These bilateral agreements show that Morocco is circumventing EU-wide negotiations and deliberately using bilateral channels to pursue its political objectives regarding Western Sahara.

Other African transit and origin countries also use this form of reverse conditionality to varying degrees. Authorities and politicians will now be watching with interest to see what political concessions Rwanda will force the British to make if it is to accept its own citizens back.