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Humanitarian Admission for Syrians in Turkey

Germany has been carrying out humanitarian admission programmes (HAP) since 1956 - initially at very irregular intervals, but regularly since the 1990s. The best-known example is the HAP Syria, which enabled a total of 20,000 Syrian nationals to enter Germany directly from Syria's neighbouring countries as well as Egypt and Libya between 2013 and 2015.


The aim of admissions through a humanitarian admission programme is to ensure the safe entry of refugees from regions acutely affected by war and crisis. The objective is to facilitate the quickest possible admission of larger groups of refugees, who usually belong to a specific nationality or group. This is not a substitute for regular asylum procedures, but merely a supplement in acute emergency situations. The legal basis for this is section 23 (2) Residence Act (AufenthG).


How does a humanitarian admission programme work?

As these programmes are always on a voluntary basis, they do not follow any generally applicable procedure. The government is flexible in defining the process and terms of admission programmes. Until 2015, there were three federal humanitarian admission programmes for Syrian nationals as well as various admission programmes run by the federal states.

  • UNHCR was involved in the pre-selection of people for the 1st Humanitarian Admission Programme.

  • In the 2nd and 3rd Humanitarian Admission Programme, Syrians living in Germany were also able to apply for admission of their relatives.

In the previous state programmes, humanitarian criteria were considered, but also family ties to Germany and the willingness of relatives to provide for the living expenses of those entering the country (so-called declaration of commitment (Verpflichtungserklärung)).


At present, declarations of commitment can only be used to bring relatives to Germany through federal state admission programmes.


Who is selected?

The eligible group of people is determined in the respective admission order (Aufnahmeanordnung) and there are no generally applicable criteria for entry through the Humanitarian Admission Programme. As soon as an admission programme is decided, it is determined which groups of people are eligible and how many refugees from which country will be admitted.


In previous admission programmes, consideration was primarily given to people whose relatives in Germany agreed to pay for the living expenses of those entering the country or to provide support. In addition, the following admission criteria applied, at least one of which the persons had to fulfil:

  • Links to Germany (family ties, previous stays, etc.)

  • Humanitarian criteria (vulnerable children with parents, medical needs, women in precarious situations, etc.)

  • Ability to contribute to reconstruction after the end of the conflict


Current admission programme for Syrian refugees from Turkey

The underlying arrangement for the humanitarian admission programme for Syrian refugees is the deal between Turkey and the European Union, the main aim of which is to stop irregular migration from Turkey to the EU. As a result, admissions from Turkey are directly linked to deportations and individual asylum applications to the EU are made even more difficult.


Syrian asylum seekers who live in Turkey must register with the Turkish migration authority DGMM and can then only wait to see whether they are selected for the programme. They cannot apply directly to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees or UNHCR to be considered for the admission procedure. The Turkish migration authority proposes people to the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees. These people then go through a lengthy assessment procedure (involving UNHCR) and before they can be selected for admission to Germany. Organisations or relatives in Germany therefore do not have the possibility to recommend people for the programme in Turkey. In justified individual cases, stateless persons who lived in Syria before coming to Turkey can, in addition to Syrian nationals, also be selected for the programme.


As with resettlement, various criteria can influence the selection process. These include the protection of the family unity, family ties or ties to Germany which foster integration, the integration ability of the persons measured by educational qualifications, language skills, age, and religious affiliation as well as the degree of need for protection.


The selected individuals travel to Germany in groups and spend the first two weeks after arrival in an initial accommodation centre in Friedland or Doberlug-Kirchhain before being dispersed to the federal states according to a system of distribution called Königsteiner Schlüssel. In the host municipalities, they receive a residence permit for three years according to section 23 (2) Residence Law (AufenthG). Their residence status qualifies them to take part in an integration course, they have an immediate work permit and are entitled to benefits in accordance with SGB II/XII. In contrast to resettlement refugees (section 23 (4) Residence Law (AufenthG)), they are not entitled to simplified family reunification and in most cases are asked by the immigration authorities to present national passports.

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