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Refugees Transit zones - what's that?

Politicians from the CDU and CSU want to set up so-called transit zones as soon as possible. The goal: To check whether refugees have a claim to asylum.

One has come across transit zones at airports, for example: the ability to switch to a long-haul flight, without entering the territory of the country in which the airport is situated. That is why the idea is so attractive - at least from the perspective of some politicians: asylum-seekers can be detained in the transit zones, and in a fast-track procedure the question is answered if they have the right to apply for asylum in Germany at all.

It could be, for example, that the asylum seeker is coming from a safe third country or from a safe country of origin. One could then quickly send them back to the appropriate country.

A no man's land at the airport

Lange Warteschlangen am Stand der Hilfsorganisation

In front of the issuing office of Migration Aid in the transit areas- long queues.

Such a process already exists at airports like Frankfurt or Berlin for refugees who arrive by plane. Because then an airport is considered to be an EU's external border, as one can enter by air from a third country.

Anyone entering the country at an airport can be detained there if they have no papers or false identity papers with them or come from a "safe country of origin". An asylum application is processed there within a few days. Meanwhile, the foreigner is held in the transit area of the airport, a kind of "no man's land". But this happens only at airports where asylum seekers can be accommodated on the site.

Legal situation is confusing

Flüchtlinge stehen wartend vor mehreren Containern.

Refugees in front of the facitlity for registration on the border among Hungary and Serbia. (Archive)

The question is where and how can such zones be set up at the Germany border; and whether it is legally possible. According to Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) an EU directive on asylum enables a country to introduce such procedures at its borders. However, this directive has to be first implemented by Germany.

Given the open borders that Germany has with its neighbours, some of this is unclear. For instance, how can one ensure that incoming refugees do not simply bypass transit zones? In addition, according to the EU Commission sealed off transit areas can only be erected temporarily, for a few weeks, at the internal borders of the EU transit zones. Germany does not have any external EU border.

Just as unclear is how and where the asylum seekers could be accommodated in these transit areas.