Germany is Powerless to Deport Migrants, Everyone Who Arrives Gets to Stay

When skeptics grumble in comments to German newspapers that 'nobody will ever get deported once they reach Germany', they are right.

This fact is important, since it means that the German state is unlikely to ever successfully deport any significant number of the migrants who are coming in now. So all of those Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Moldovans, Moroccans, etc. who are mixing in with the Syrians and riding the coattails of the current immigration wave will be able to stay for years on end, receiving government welfare and diverting scarce resources from actual Syrian war refugees. They will be permitted to do this even though they have no legal grounds for asylum. 

You would think this fact would be vital to understanding what's really at stake in the German immigration debate, and you'd be right. Nevertheless, mainstream German newspapers ignore it, so it took the Washington Post to explain why the German legal system fails here. (You may notice that the Washington Post refrains from using the misleading term 'refugees' for people who aren't.)

Even in the United States, deportation cases of undocumented migrants can linger for years. But because the migrants coming to Europe in dramatic waves are largely applying for legal asylum, they are benefiting from a catalogue of appeals and pseudo-statuses including a precarious right to remain that is simply called “toleration.” If they can stall long enough, German codes potentially allow them to beat the system and win permanent residency. And even when deportation orders come through, there are ingenious ways around them.

Hassan was one of the unlucky ones…. [L]ike most of the hopeful refugees arriving here, he first entered Europe in a different country. In his case, it was Bulgaria, a no man’s land for migrants where he was slapped in jail. Under E.U. law, Germany does not have to listen to his claim. It can just send him back.

It tried to do just that on the cold December morning last year when police hauled him to Frankfurt Airport.

But once aboard a flight, Hassan managed to block his deportation. German policies restrict the use of force during expulsions, and some deportees have taken to kicking and screaming inside plane cabins to thwart take-off. Hassan said he merely informed the crew that he was leaving involuntarily. The result: Citing a possible safety risk, the pilot allowed him to disembark. With no grounds to detain Hassan further under German law, frustrated authorities released him.

Back in Kassel, his lawyer found him a shield against another deportation attempt: Church asylum. Hassan packed up and moved into a welcoming Catholic church…. If he can avoid deportation for four more months, a loophole in the asylum law would compel the German government to hear the merits of his case. Because the Germans — citing logistical and safety issues — are generally not deporting Somalis to their home country, he has a good chance of being allowed to stay.

Germany last year managed to return only 4,700 of the 35,000 migrants who were told to go back to those nations — in part because deportations are difficult. Commercial and charter flights can be expensive. Also, many of the migrants coming now don’t have passports or travel papers, making expulsion a bureaucratic and logistical mess.

The new law, however, would not close the important loophole being used here by Hassan and others to avoid deportation to transit countries. If an asylum seeker can manage to fend off deportation for six to 18 months, the German government has no choice but to reopen their case.

Germany has already sent back thousands of rejected asylum claimants from Balkan countries. But for many rejected asylum seekers, a final ruling can, or often does, take years. If they can stretch out their cases for up to six years, a law here allows many to apply for permanent status — suggesting that Germany may be forced to absorb the majority of those seeking asylum.

“Deportation is always difficult, but maybe you have to remove 100,000 to help the other 600,000 find a way to stay,” said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. “Europe needs to develop a backbone, to say that on principle, if you are an unauthorized immigrant, an economic migrant, we are going to identify you and send you back.”

The upshot: You can manipulate German law to gain permanent residency and even citizenship long after your unfounded claim to asylum is rejected. Only the very foolish or short-sighted ever get deported against their will. The German state simply lacks the will to enforce its own immigration laws. Even if those laws actually do change and become harsher, there's no guarantee they'll survive court scrutiny.

So under current trends, at least 90% of the million migrants due to arrive this year alone are going to be able to find some way to stay in Germany for the rest of their lives. And many will earn the right to bring 3-4 family members with them.

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