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Germany: Faster Deportations through ‘Transit Zones’

Faster, more inhumane. This sums up the newest hardening of the asylum laws in Germany. But even that is not enough for the reactionary forces within the German regime. Deportations of refugees are supposed to be accelerated even further by installing so-called “transit zones” close to the borders.

Bastian Schmidt

October 30, 2015
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The new and tightened asylum law was passed through legislature in record time in mid-October. It came into force on Saturday – one week before its initially planned date. All in all, this is the fourth hardening of the law in the past 13 months. Just like last year, the list of “secure third states” was extended; in addition to that, the stay in the initial registration centers will prolonged, monetary aid will be substituted by non-cash benefits, and deportations will be accelerate. However, this last point still sparks more debates within the Grand Coalition. The ruling elite is discussing how to deport refugees even faster.

Introduction of “Transit Zones”?

In order to execute the asylum proceedings faster than regulated by the new law, so-called “transit zones” for refugees were proposed. These zones would mean the creation of facilities close to the borders in which people could be held up until their plea for asylum is processed completely. In practice this would mean mass imprisonment at the borders and the creation of internment camps. Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), makes no effort to conceal the purpose and goal of these zones: “Those who come from the Balkans, those who come from secure states, will go into the transit zones – their plea will be processed in one, two days – and then they have to go back.” Until now, the review of asylum pleas is a process that normally takes several months. Cutting this time down to a few days further undermines the asylum laws, which are already insanely repressive for refugees from the Balkan countries.

The model for this proposal is the “airport procedure” practiced at the biggest German airports. If a plea is “apparently unjustified”, people can be sent back on the same day of their arrival – until then, they can be held in specially created deportation cells.

Dispute with the Social Democratic Party

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) initially opposed the proposal: “transit zones” would mean formally incarcerating refugees until their pleas were examined and “mass internment facilities” would not be possible with the SPD. In there place, there should be government facilities that rapidly process “apparently unjustified” pleas in order to send refugees back quickly.

But since then, a consensus on the “transit zones” has been reached; the dispute now is solely over the name. For instance, Minister of Interior Affairs of the Nordrhein-Westfalia province Ralf Jäger (SPD) cynically called them “travel centers.” This goes to show that in spite of differing denominations, in principle they agree that deportations should be expedited. It is clear that the SPD aims to achieve deportations “with a “human face.” But whichever the case, the consequences will be the same: the vast majority,in most cases misery, torture and death for the deported.

Pressure from the Christian Social Union

The Christian Social Union (CSU) in particular has been mobilizing its forces against the course of the Merkel government in the recent weeks. Several CSU politicians alerted against the “disintegration of the Christian Union party”. In fact, their numbers are dropping in the recent polls. This decline is an expression of the strong polarization of the last couple of weeks. In this context, CSU politician Markus Söder remarked in the spirit of Franz-Josef Strauß*: “If we fail here, the [right-wing populist, translator’s note] ‘Alternative for Germany’ and others will establish themselves permanently. Nobody wants that. That is why the CDU and the CSU have to move closer together again.” This statement marks the pressure which lies on the CSU to the strengthen the Alternative for Germany. This upset stems especially from their own electorate, which is dissatisfied with the course of government. Now, he CSU is trying to gain support with their voters by launching an aggressively nationalist campaign. The recent official invitation to the Hungarian president Viktor Orban by Seehofer is just one expression of that.

Back and forth on the refugee question

The government’s course has not been uniform in the last couple of months. After propagating a “welcome culture” in the summer andsuspending the Dublin convention for Syrian refugees due to public pressure along with the massive arrival of refugees, this policy is now being questioned strongly by the CSU,the CDU and the SPD. “We have reached the limit of our capacities”, exclaimed SPD Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel. Seehofer says this is in an effort to “limit the number of civil war refugees”.

During the summer, German companies greedily cheered at the arrival of hundreds of thousands of cheap laborers and called for the suspension of minimum wage for refugees. However, the current polarization towards the right and the weakening of the established parties which have lost control over part of their electorate could run counter to the interests of the German capital.

Unity of refugees and workers

The recent tightening of the asylum laws further divides refugees into “economic” and “war” refugees. Thus, while people from war zones are supposed to be integrated as fast as possible into the labor market and the educational system, people from the Balkan countries will be deprived of their rights and deported even faster due to the planned “transit zones”. Even the EU commission with Jean-Claude Juncker at its head agrees with this premise: “the policy of allowing unhindered crossing of borders is unacceptable”. This means nothing less than ruthless repression of refugees.

The task is to build a broad democratic movement in connection with the workers’ movement in order to combat this development. For this to occur, trade unions need to accept refugees into their ranks and give them the opportunity to combat the attacks on their living and working conditions shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues. This is the only way to overcome the racist division within the working class. Such a movement has to call for the opening of all borders.

Only this can we prevent refugees from being used as a driving force to lower the wages for everyone and prevent them from having to live and work under the most miserable of circumstances. For as long as they are threatened by deportation, they are subject to the despotism of the German state and the capitalists.

*Translator’s note: Franz-Josef Strauß was a right-wing politician and leader of the Christian Social Union who in 1986 proclaimed that “there can be no democratically legitimated party to the right of the CSU”, thus claiming a right-wing populist space against newly arising right-wing variants.

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