Pushbacks on the German-Polish border: No chance of asylum


At the German-Polish border, refugees without an asylum procedure are turned away. Aid organizations consider this to be illegal.

A policeman surrounded by people

The federal police checked a coach with Ukrainian women at the Görlitz/Zgorzelec border crossing Photo: Andre Lenthe/imago

BERLIN taz | The rejection of asylum seekers is common practice on the German-Polish border. This emerges from a response from the federal government to a request from Left MP Clara Bünger. According to this, from January to July, a total of 46 refugees were sent back to Poland by the federal police after crossing the German border without an asylum procedure.

For Bünger, spokeswoman for the left in the Bundestag for flight and legal policy, “the numbers fuel the suspicion that these are not isolated cases”. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of rejections more than doubled in the first half of the year compared to the previous year: in 2021 the authorities counted 22 cases. Bünger calls on SPD Interior Minister Nancy Faeser to stop this "potentially illegal practice".

In the EU, the Dublin Regulation regulates which member state is responsible for conducting an asylum procedure. "If people express an asylum request at the German-Polish border, they must first be registered," says the left-wing politician. The Ministry of the Interior, on the other hand, writes that "Federal police practice is in line with the legal situation". Refugee councils and activists refer to this approach as “legalized pushbacks.”

The background to the request was an article published in August by the taz about two men from Yemen who were picked up by the federal police just across the border in Görlitz, Saxony. The federal police took her to the police station and, with the help of an interpreter, questioned her about the reasons for her entry. The two men repeatedly emphasized that they wanted to apply for asylum in Germany. Nevertheless, the federal police pressured them to sign several documents that they could not read.

46 rejections since July

The federal police later informed the taz: "In the cases described, there was no request for protection according to the present definition." And further: "Thus the rejection to Poland was ordered." Moldova, Afghanistan, Syria and from Yemen. The countries are among the most common countries of origin for refugees who apply for asylum in Germany.

Julian Pahlke, member of the Bundestag for the Greens and an expert on migration, calls the rejections at Schengen internal borders "legally questionable". He "expects the federal police to take these incidents seriously and carry out checks".

Dave Schmidtke from the Saxony Refugee Council knows stories like those of the Yemeni men in Görlitz. The official confirmation from the federal government that this is not an isolated case does not surprise him. Neither is Schmidkte surprised at the increasing number of rejections. More refugees from Afghanistan and Syria are currently arriving in Saxony than in previous months. "We received indications that similar incidents also took place in the German-Czech border area," says Schmidtke.

The Council of Europe is also alarmed

However, it is difficult single rejections to prove specifically. Henrike Koch from the Refugee Council in Brandenburg also called the number of rejections "worrying". She says the first hurdle is finding out about it in the first place. Koch hopes that rejections at German borders will not become more established "as is already the case at the external borders of other EU countries". The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, had already warned last autumn: "The denial of access to asylum and returns without respect for individual protection rights" is spreading in an "alarming way" in Europe.



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