The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees currently has almost 190,000 pending cases. This year, the agency wants to work through "old cases" in a targeted manner.
An employee of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in Berlin. Photo: dpa
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees wants to significantly reduce the number of old asylum cases this year. "We want to reduce as many old procedures as possible by the end of the year," the head of the Nuremberg-based agency, Manfred Schmidt, told the German Press Agency. "Our prioritization focuses not only on processing applications from Syria, Iraq, the Western Balkans and Kosovo, but also on old procedures." The Federal Office currently has about 190,000 asylum applications that have not yet been decided.
"That sounds huge, but it is only half huge," Schmidt said. About 35,000 cases were still from 2013, of which about 5,000 had been decided by mid-March this year, he said. The rest were filed only last year or this year. "53 percent of the proceedings pending at the moment are less than six months old," Schmidt said.
Last year, the number of unresolved cases had risen sharply because significantly more applications were filed than decided each month. This year, too, the number of new applications has so far exceeded the number of settled cases. Around 26,000 new applications each in January and February were offset by around 18,000 decided cases. "Starting in April/May, we expect to decide more applications than new ones each month," Schmidt said.
Then, he said, the work of the new staff will really start to have an impact. Last year, the authority had received 300 new positions. This year, there will be another 350 posts – of which around 230 have been filled so far. Many of the new posts will be created at the 20 new initial reception facilities planned by the federal states. This means that the Federal Office will then have 46 offices.
The average duration of proceedings: 5.1 months
"We expect to have filled all the positions by summer," Schmidt said. An advantage here, he said, is that the Federal Office can look for its new personnel at the respective locations. "Of course, that’s easier than if you had to hire 350 new colleagues nationwide for the Nuremberg site."
After just three months, the Federal Office has already decided on more applications this year than in the whole of 2010, he said, adding that the average duration of proceedings is currently 5.1 months – compared with 7.1 last year. "For applications submitted from 2014, we are at an average procedure duration of 3.3 months." The federal government had set an average duration of three months as a target.
Currently, nearly 50 percent of all applications from asylum seekers come from the Western Balkans, Albania and Kosovo, according to the data. "Because they can be processed relatively quickly, you also end up with a shorter average processing time," Schmidt said.
Quality assurance and ensuring the rule of law are important here, he said. "Before the new decision-makers even do their first hearing on their own, they’ve had three to four months of training." In the coming months, a qualification center will be set up in Nuremberg, where all new employees will be trained before they are sent to their new offices.