Constitutional Court stops cuts for single people in refugee homes

GRefugees who live in communal accommodation now get just as much money to live on as other single asylum seekers. Their social benefits were cut by a flat rate of ten percent in 2019 because they can allegedly save on expenses by shopping and cooking together – but that violates the Basic Law. “The existential needs of those affected are currently not covered,” said the Federal Constitutional Court on Thursday. (Az. 1 BvL 3/21)

The “special needs level” for single people in refugee homes was introduced on September 1, 2019 by the then federal government made up of CDU/CSU and SPD. The shortened rate is the same as for people who are married or living with a partner. According to the current standard rates, this makes a difference of 37 euros per month. Single asylum seekers are currently entitled to 367 euros. If you live in a collective accommodation, it is only 330 euros.

Savings through joint purchase not possible

This was justified with possible savings through the joint management of the residents. Such effects exist, for example, when eating, “by buying groceries or at least the basic kitchen needs together in larger quantities and using them together in the communal kitchens,” as the explanatory statement states. Co-establishment can be “expected”.

For the court, however, it is “not recognizable” that such savings are actually being achieved – or could be achieved. Three years after the regulation came into force, there were no investigations, the judges of the First Senate said. Those affected are said to have violated their fundamental right to a decent subsistence level.

Higher rate for single people

The provision in the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act must now be revised. However, the constitutional judges are ordering with immediate effect that all single people are again to be granted the higher rate – whether they live in collective accommodation or not. Retrospectively, only those affected benefit whose decisions are not yet final. This is the case if someone has lodged an objection or complained. These people may have been entitled to more money since September 2019.

The specific case involved a man from Sri Lanka, born in 1982, who has been living in shared accommodation near Düsseldorf since 2014. In law, it falls under a provision that applies to all people who have been legally resident in Germany for at least 18 months. The Karlsruhe decision therefore directly affects only this group. However, the Society for Freedom Rights (GFF), which initiated the procedure, assumes that it can be transferred to benefits received in the first 18 months.

In this case, the GFF had developed a template for social courts to have the “special needs level” checked in Karlsruhe. A judge at the Düsseldorf Social Court made use of it. There, the man from Sri Lanka is suing for higher benefits for the months of November 2019 to February 2020. If a specialist court considers a norm to be unconstitutional that it would have to apply in a specific case, it suspends the procedure so that Karlsruhe can decide.

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