Humanitarian admission programmes

What is humanitarian admission?

Humanitarian admission programmes (HAP) may be set up by countries in urgent war and crisis situations. They are intended to enable a quick admission of larger groups of refugees who mostly belong to a specific nationality or group. In the past few years, Germany has used humanitarian admission programmes several times. Three humanitarian admission programmes were set up by the federal government for refugees from Syria, which enabled 20,000 Syrian nationals to enter Germany safely between 2013 and 2015. In addition, through federal state programmes Syrian refugees can be admitted to Germany to join their relatives. Admitted individuals are only given a temporary residence permit. The rights of the admitted Syrian refugees differ considerably depending whether they have entered through government or state programmes. Access and selection criteria vary accordingly.

Foto: UNHCR/Rouven Brunnert

What is the goal of humanitarian admission?

The goal of humanitarian admission programmes is to enable refugees from war and crisis areas to safely and legally enter a country prepared to admit and grant them protection. Humanitarian admission programmes are not a replacement for regular asylum procedures but may supplement them in emergency situations.

Why is humanitarian admission important?

In war and crisis situations, humanitarian admission programmes enable short-term and relatively rapid admission of larger groups of refugees. Thus, humanitarian admission contributes to the protection and maintenance of the rights of vulnerable refugees. Furthermore, the admission relieves the burden on the frequently overstrained first host countries and is, therefore, a mechanism for sharing international responsibility for the protection of refugees.

How does a humanitarian admission programme work?

There is no generally applicable process for humanitarian admission programmes. Until 2015, the federal government had three humanitarian admission programmes for Syrians and the federal states had various other admission programmes. The three humanitarian admission programmes of the federal government were based on three admission decrees of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. These outlined the number of individuals to be admitted as well as the selection criteria and method. During the first federal government humanitarian admission programme, UNHCR was involved in pre-selecting the people. During the second and third federal government humanitarian admission programmes, Syrians living in Germany could also apply for their relatives to be admitted. The selection of the individuals in the government programmes are not only based on humanitarian criteria, but also family links to Germany and the ability of family members to provide for the people arriving (so-called “declaration of commitment” or “Verpflichtungserklärung” in German). Also, the federal states’ additional humanitarian admission programmes require the ability to proof financial ability to provide for accommodation and living costs for the family members as well as proof of existing family links to Germany.

What are the criteria for entry via a humanitarian admission programme?

There are no generally applicable criteria for humanitarian admission to Germany. If a humanitarian admission programme has been announced, decrees or admission directives outline the target groups and the number of individuals to be admitted. During the three previous federal government humanitarian admission programmes of 2013 – 2015 Syrians were admitted as well as stateless individuals, in certain cases. During the selection process primarily people whose relatives in Germany provided financial proof of being able to pay for accommodation and living costs were considered. Furthermore, the individuals needed to meet at least one of the following admission criteria:

  1. Links to Germany (Family links, previous visits, etc.)
  2. Humanitarian criteria (vulnerable children with parents, medical needs, women-at-risk etc.)
  3. Ability to make a contribution to reconstruction of the country of origin after the end of the conflict

What are the legal bases for humanitarian admission by the federal government?

According to Section 23 (II) of the Residence Act, the Federal Ministry of the Interior may order that admission is permitted for certain foreigners “in order to safeguard special political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany.” The paragraph is applied through consultation with the federal states. The concrete implementation of an admission programme by the federal government is barely legally pre-structured, but it is rather outlined by respective admission directives or special decrees. The admission programmes can be designed in different ways with respect to the length of stay, the access to integration measures, or the obligation of the family members to pay for the accommodation and living costs. People who have arrived in the past few years via the three federal government admission programmes for Syrians are entitled to the following benefits:

Residence: Admitted individuals receive a residence permit for two years that may then be extended. After five years, these individuals are also entitled to a permanent EU residence permit under Section 9a (2) no. 1 AufenthG in accordance with the preconditions… These include but are not limited to being able to cover their own subsistence costs and having adequate language skills and knowledge of Society.

Social security benefits: The individuals receive benefits under the second book of the Social Security Code (SGB II), (i.e. Arbeitslosengeld II/ unemployment benefit II) or the (SGB XII) (i.e. welfare). This does not apply if the relatives of the person entering have signed a declaration of commitment and as a result of this must pay for the living costs of the admitted person. The costs for medical treatment are excluded from the financial commitment of the relatives.

Work: The residence permit under Section 23 (II) of the AufenthG entitles the person to take up employment immediately after the issue of the residence permit.

Place of residence: Individuals entering are restricted in their choice of place of residence. The place of residence is determined by the authorities. Under the admission decree, this may refer to the whole federal state or to a particular administrative district. Individuals who have entered based on a declaration of commitment are required to take up residence in the administrative district of their relatives. This requirement may be lifted if the person takes up employment and no longer draws social security benefits.

Family reunification: Individuals who have entered via the federal government humanitarian admission programmes are in principle not allowed to have their families join them subsequently. It is not intended in the admission decree that family members will join them later as it is assumed that the immediate family has entered together.

Integration: The individuals entering have the right to attend an integration course by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (cf. Section 44 (I) AufenthG). This covers 600 to 900 hours and in the best case scenario concludes with a B1 certificate.