In many cases where church asylum was granted after 1 August 2018 the BAMF extended the time limit for transfers of asylum seekers to the EU country where they first entered from six to 18 months.
The time limit for such transfers will thus be extended to 18 months if
- the person who drafted the documentation of hardship is not discernible in the communication of the church asylum to the authorities;
- the document justifying the grounds for hardship has not been submitted to the BAMF within 4 weeks after church asylum was granted. A possibility of submitting documents later is generally not provided. Exceptions are, for example, medical specialist certificates, when it can be proven that an appointment with a medical specialist had already been made;
- church asylum is not being ended within three days of the rejection of the documentation of hardship. Even if one is willing to end the church asylum, this would not be a feasible timeframe. Church parishes decide independently on whether to end church asylum. After receiving the rejected documentation, the responsible parish council will assess the changed situation.
If a documentation of hardship in order to avoid church asylum is rejected and subsequently church asylum is granted, the period for transfer will also be extended to 18 months. Even if the documentation is submitted two weeks or less prior to the expiry of the regular period for transfers, it cannot, according to the BAMF, be processed anymore, so that the period of transfer will in this case also be extended (https://www.nds-fluerat.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/BAMF-Merkblatt.pdf).
However, under the Dublin III Regulation, extending the period of transfer to 18 months is only possible when the person concerned has “absconded”, that is, when they have not complied with a deportation order or when they are not (anymore) registered with the police and are considered as having disappeared.
Administrative courts as well as administrative high courts have largely objected to the assessment of the BAMF that persons who were granted church asylum shall, under the conditions described above, be considered as “absconding” and that the period for transfer shall be extended accordingly. The courts have above all argued that neither law nor fact prevent authorities from carrying out the transfer of a person that was granted church asylum. It is rather the state that refrains from enforcing the law, since churches do not enjoy any special rights that would prevent authorities from carrying out a transfer, if necessary, by means of coercion.
Due to the strict approach taken by the BAMF, the cases of church asylum have significantly decreased. Many parishes have become cautious and sometimes fear legal consequences. Those parishes that continue to grant church asylum to refugees must now adjust to providing one and a half years of support. Moreover, the uncertainties related to church asylum and its duration put an additional enormous psychological burden on refugees. Legal decisions regarding this matter can be found at the database of asyl.net, when searching for the keywords “church asylum” and “Dublin procedure”.