In 2014, the issues of refugees and asylum were particularly strong on the political agenda, so much so that it would be fair to argue that 2014 represented a second “asylum compromise.” This was the first time since 1993 (when the right to asylum established in Article 16 of the Basic Law was de facto abolished) that people seeking protection in Germany had been faced with so many changes to the ways in which their lives were regulated. Although some positive changes were implemented – a situation mirroring that of the early 1990s – these generally came at the cost of stricter guidelines, increasing repression, and an expansion of the grounds used to justify deportation.
At the same time, questions continued about who was “worthy of protection,” and which people were in need of special treatment. In the Bundestag, Chancellor Angela Merkel justified the classification of Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina as “safe countries of origin” as well as the consequent rapid rejection of “clearly unfounded” asylum applications from the Balkans, with recourse to the preferential treatment that could then be provided to war refugees from Syria and Iraq. Many people, including members of the opposition parties, pointed out that just because a German law declared a particular country to be ‘safe,’ this did not result in increased security for people in that country. In the case of the Balkans, this particularly applies to Roma, Albanian minorities, and gays and lesbians. Ulla Jelpke, domestic policy spokesperson for the Left Party, summarized criticism of the government’s policy by stating that it pitted different groups of people against each another in the name of “halfhearted, but long-overdue improvements,” such as providing refugees with income and accommodation.