Asylum seekers: How expensive can refugees be?

Dhe Federal Constitutional Court has declared the provision that single people in refugee homes receive less than single people outside of collective accommodation to be inadmissible for obvious reasons. Savings on meals in communal kitchens may be possible; they are just as little inevitable as they are outside the shelters. This rule has been in place since 2019. She didn’t survive long.

At the time, the federal government had estimated the savings that asylum seekers could allegedly achieve in accommodation at 37 euros. That’s about a tenth of the amount due to single people who fall under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act. With the sum, the federal government should have had less in mind the wallet of the asylum seekers, but their own. The grand coalition that governed at the time was not just concerned with savings that newcomers could make, but that the federal and state governments could achieve.

The Karlsruhe decision affects only part of the costs for asylum seekers, the standard rate, which is reimbursed to the municipalities sometimes more, sometimes less by the respective states. The resolution can therefore also be read as follows: If they want to relieve the municipalities responsible for the costs of asylum seekers, the federal and state governments cannot save on the backs of the migrants.

This leads straight to the question of cost allocation, which has remained controversial to this day. Three years before the introduction of the “special needs level” in 2016, the federal government had taken over the costs for the accommodation from the municipalities. They have nothing to do with the standard rate, but they are no less a burden on municipal budgets. The relief from 2016 was the preliminary conclusion of a gradual assumption of the costs for accommodation and heating (“KdU”) by the federal government. Originally it was just over 28 percent, then just under 40 percent, and finally over 63 percent.

It’s always about the “KdU”

Up until 2016, the cities and municipalities were still paying more than 36 percent of these costs – in view of the wave of refugees and growing standard rates, this is a foreseeable overstrain. This was followed by a temporary relief from all “KdU” costs by the federal government. This rule expires in 2021. That was already controversial at the time, because the burden would not be reduced significantly – only a fraction of the asylum seekers find their way out of state aid and into the labor market in a short time. In addition, there are now more than a million Ukraine refugees; they fall under the basic security, for which the municipalities also have to pay proportionately – and the increasing immigration of asylum seekers.

Since the beginning of this year, the federal government and local authorities have been fighting over this one-third of the costs that were taken from them between 2016 and 2021. So far, at least from the perspective of the districts, there is no satisfactory regulation. Although the federal and state governments have agreed to share the burden, they have not included the municipalities. The “refugee summit” of the municipalities with Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) in October excluded financial issues due to the minister’s lack of responsibility. Chancellor Scholz and the prime ministers only reached an agreement on November 2 – without municipalities.

The Chancellor’s Office said that financial support from the federal government that goes to the states “can” also serve to support the municipalities. The district council now replied: “Without even having a conversation with the municipal umbrella organizations, the districts and urban districts are left with 36.5 percent of the refugee-related accommodation costs and are otherwise dependent on the goodwill of the federal states.”

From the assurance in the coalition agreement to introduce a “closer, more targeted and more binding” cooperation between the federal, state and local governments, “there is no longer any talk,” writes the chief executive of the district council, Hans-Günter Henneke. In this respect, the episode of the “special needs level” for single people fits into a long history of unresolved financing issues relating to refugee policy. The federal and state governments are always generous when it comes to admissions. They leave the thankless role of supplicant to others.

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