Refugee guarantors in Germany are charged thousands of euros

Back in 2015-16, many German citizens stepped in as financial guarantors for Syrian asylum seekers. Then the law changed, and those people are now being charged for the refugees' welfare payments.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Refugee guarantors in Germany are charged thousands of euros - NewsMavens
Bundestag, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

In 2016, thousands of German citizens opened their arms to refugees. In many cases, it meant that they signed up to be their financial guarantors -- which allowed several thousand Syrians to enter Germany safely, without crossing the Mediterranean in a rubber dinghy and paying smugglers.

However, after the German state tightened its refugee legislation, the rules for financial guarantors were changed and now they are faced with thousands of euros of retroactive charges something they have never agreed to for under the old law.

The state has now halted its collection of payments, and will probably waive them altogether. But what is important is the legal conclusion: it seems that it is easier for a refugee to take all the risks and come to Germany illegally without any guarantees, rather than look for a financial guarantor, as the law dictates. And the staggeringly high bills for the guarantors send another message that refugees are not welcome, and neither are those who want to help them.

What is a finanancial guarantorship in Germany and what has changed?

  • Several thousand Syrian refugees were able to legally enter Germany in 2015-16, thanks to the help of financial guarantors.
  • Financial guarantorship (Bürgschaft in German) is a mechanism that allows a private person or an institution to cover a non-EU citizen's financial needs during their asylum-seeking process. 
  • This process allowed many refugees to arrive in Germany directly from Syria, without taking the dangerous trip through the Mediterranean and paying money to smugglers.
  • Until mid-2016, the financial guarantor was only responsible for his or her charges' finances until they were granted the status of a refugee. And the guarantee ran out after 3 years.
  • In summer 2016, the law was changed and now job centers can retroactively charge the financial guarantors the money they paid the refugees over those three years. In some cases, it can amount to many thousands of euros (most guarantors sponsored more than one person).
  • The nastiest surprise was for those who signed up as guarantors before the law was changed because they feel like they were punished for their empathy retroactively.
  • Now, several dozen of financial guarantors are suing the German state to allow them not to pay the refugees' welfare costs if they signed up before August 2016. There is hope they might succeed.
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