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Germany: More than 200,000 asylum suits

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017 | World News

More than 200,000 asylum seekers are currently piling up at the administrative courts, the judiciary is working on the strain. cafetheology.org has accompanied a Hamburg judge one day.

"We German lawyers always want to know exactly," says Heiko Meins and smiles. The joke is an attempt to lighten the mood in the courtroom. There is much at stake for the young man who is shy of mine. The Afghan has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Germany. This is represented by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which in turn is represented by the President of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), as it is called in full official German.

Heiko Meins, Chairman of the Administrative Court of Hamburg, has to decide on the case. Since 1992, the lawyer has been working on asylum procedures, currently in a chamber which deals exclusively with Afghanistan. Thousands of lawsuits against decisions of the BAMF are currently pending at the Administrative Court of Hamburg. In 2016 there were 4,447, in the first half of 2017 already 4,265 proceedings. Throughout Germany, the number of complaints in the hundreds of thousands.

  Judges are independent
In July, the judiciary warned against an overload of the courts. "At present administrative courts are under the control of the administrative courts," says Sven Rebehn, head of the "Berliner Zeitung". But how does a judge deal with complaints with this massive flood? "We take the time we need to make a good judgment," says Heiko Meins. "We judges are independent and we attach great importance to them."

In fact, Mine takes the necessary time to make a good judgment. Also in the case of the young Afghans, who appeared before him today, to sue the decision of the BAMF. This had denied him refugee status. Mine had already dealt with the case before the hearing. The judge studied the Asylacts of the Afghans, as well as the situation analyzes of the Federal Foreign Office on Afghanistan and other sources.

 Among other things, in this negotiating room at the Hamburg Administrative Court, it is decided whether or not refugees are allowed to stay in Germany. (Source: Marc von Lüpke)

At the hearing, it is above all credibility. Can the Afghans' escape history have taken place like this? Has he and his family actually been threatened by the Taliban because he has worked for the security and reconstruction mission ISAF in Afghanistan? And would his life be in danger if he returned to his homeland?

The story must be coherent
"Ultimately, it is a matter of whether I believe as a judge or not believe what the plaintiff says," says Meins. "It has to be a coherent story told to me, and it has to match what is known about the country." With the help of an interpreter the young man tells his story, some of his information can be documented. For Richter Meins, the nearly two-hour negotiation is concentration work. He must ask the right questions, wait for the translation, and assess the plaintiff's credibility.

Mine listens attentively, asks again and again, sums up. After almost two hours, the Afghan can finally breathe a word – Mine is giving his lawsuit. And in this way lends him refugee status. In contrast to the BAMF, which did not send a representative to the trial, the judge considered the young man's credibility credible.

Against decisions by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, action is possible before the administrative courts. (Source: Daniel Karmann / dpa)

It is about the future of the plaintiff
"It is certainly an advantage if you have a little longer in your life and have already seen many procedures," Meins answers the question how he gets an assessment during a process. Especially in the large number of complaints that Mine has to negotiate: "My workload is high," says the judge. "There are currently 1,100 proceedings pending in my chamber, distributed among four judges." This makes 275 procedures per judge.

For parts of the public, the personnel and time spent on refugee processes in the courts is incomprehensible. This is also clear to Richter Meins. "We make sure that we meet the individual case," the lawyer points out. "In spite of the expectation that much more needs to be done." For the plaintiffs, it is not least about their future that is going to happen during the hearing. Even if deportations to Afghanistan are currently largely exposed.

The house of the courts in the Hansestadt also houses the administrative court. (Source: Marc von Lüpke)

"We bear great responsibility"
"We need to be aware that we have a great responsibility," says Meins. "According to the current situation, it is so that we can decide whether someone will be able to stay or not." While the young Afghan from the first trial is still pleased with his lawyer about the verdict, Judge Meins urges to hurry.

Outside, the next applicant is waiting. Also a young Afghan, years ago as an unaccompanied minor refugee came to Germany. Heiko Meins again opens the hearing. Ask and listen. Again and again, the judge listens because he wants to know more about certain facts. The appellant himself does not say much about himself;

Some stories are much longer
"I have to turn to some of the plaintiffs," Meins later said. "If you just let them talk, they'll be ready in a minute." Although their story is much longer – and can be sufficient to award a residence title. After an hour or so, Meins falls his judgment this time. This Afghan can also remain in Germany, but because of the national ban on deportation for the first time for another year.

The asylum seeker Ahmad Aldarwish complained at the beginning of 2017 before the Oberverwaltungsgericht Münster on full refugee status. (Source: Friso Gentsch / dpa)

"There are cases that need to be negotiated longer, while others can be negotiated more concisely," Meins explains the different length of the two oral proceedings while the courtroom is slowly emptying. If a refugee from an Islamic country has, for example, converted to Christianity, Meins is obliged to examine the seriousness of this change of faith seriously. In Afghanistan the life of a Christian convert would be in great danger.

Small jokes should provide for loosening
One point is particularly important to the judge: "We pay attention to the fact that we have to deal with each case in an appropriate way. People have to be able to speak, but we must reveal what we think about the facts." He emphasizes, "This is important, but it also takes time." The lawyer is a humorous person, who leads his processes purposefully and constructively. At times he tried to slacken the tensions of the plaintiffs, who followed the proceedings mainly by the words of the translator, by little jokes. "You never know what humor Afghans are all about," he admits.

The friendly attitude between the judge and the lawyer during the two negotiations is striking. "It is a mutual appreciation," the judge makes clear. "If I argue with the attorneys at every session, I can forget the transaction." As a courteous judge and lawyer also deal with each other, the law alone is the decisive factor, emphasizes Meins: "We do not degenerate here and we do not dice anything."

"We are committed to law and law"
Each of the more than 1,000 trials piling up in Mein's court of justice represents a single biography, a single destiny. The plaintiffs have left their homeland, often the family, sometimes experiencing violence, and go to Europe on partly dangerous routes. How do you deal with it as a judge? "I'll take part," says Meins. He looks thoughtful. "I have already described situations that I thought I might have escaped under these circumstances."

For him as a person, participation is self-evident, judging it according to other standards: "We are bound by law and law." However, according to which criteria Meins and his colleagues decide concretely? "In our examination of the national prohibition of deportation, we have raised the question: Can this person survive when he returns to Afghanistan?"

Always surprises
If someone came to Germany alone because of the 2016 open borders, he will hardly get a residence permit before the administrative court of Hamburg. Those who have legal reasons can very well: "A little more than half of our cases have been given a title," summarizes Meins.

Although Meins has been dealing with asylum charges for twenty-five years, he still surprises to this day. In cases which he regarded as safe for the grant of a protective status, plaintiffs suddenly tell quite different stories than before. "And there is the case that I have the impression that much in the story of a plaintiff does not match and then he can convince all the threads convincingly."

"Asylum is always economic work"
Again and again, there are mine judgments which change the lives of many people. How does he deal with this? "The profession of the judge is also characterized by the fact that one has not only a fixed working time," says Meins. "In fact, you do not have a limited working time, because you're doing the job of everything you're dealing with." I think of the next session when it comes to shaving, wondering where the demand could be. "

Until well into next year mine will still be busy with the current mountain of lawsuits. The judge is accustomed to such peak loads. "Asylum work is always economic activity", says Meins.

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