Refugees and asylum

The issues of refugees and asylum represent a task to be tackled by the European Union working together. EU law also has rules for access to the labour market and social benefits.

Legal framework

The European Union (EU) is developing a common policy on asylum, subsidiary protection and temporary protection (Article 78 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU - TFEU). Article 78 (2) TFEU gives the Council and the European Parliament the power to adopt various measures under the ordinary legislative procedure concerning a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). On 23 September 2020, the European Commission (COM) presented new proposals (Migration and Asylum Package) to reform the CEAS comprehensively. On this basis, the negotiations between the EU member states were launched to move the reform process forward and to find a good solution for implementing a crisis-proof, smoothly functioning system.

Documents of the Commission on the Migration and Asylum Package as well as further information from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, which is in charge within the Federal Government, can be found here (in German).

Examples of access pathways under EU law

There are various foundations in EU law that regulate the rights of people who are entitled to protection or who apply for it. When and under what conditions are they permitted to work? What benefits are they entitled to so that they can have a decent life? The Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU regulates the rights of those applying for international protection (refugee protection or subsidiary protection).

  • Labour market access is granted no later than nine months after the application for international protection has been filed, if no decision on the application has yet been taken (Article 15 (1)).
  • Benefits for an adequate standard of living ensuring livelihood and protection of physical and mental health (Article 17 (2)) are to be provided.
  • Minimum requirements for medical care are also regulated (Article 19).

The COM published a proposal for an amendment to the Reception Conditions Directive on 13 July 2016. 

The Qualifications Directive 2011/95/EU contains standards for the recognition of persons entitled to international protection (refugees or those entitled to subsidiary protection) and for the content of the protection status. It stipulates, for example, that persons granted international protection have the same access to the labour market as nationals (Article 26). The same applies to access to social assistance benefits (in Germany: the Second Book of the Social Code (SGB II) for persons capable of work, the Twelfth Book of the Social Code (SGB XII) for persons not capable of work). Member states are to grant recognised beneficiaries of protection the same access to health care as nationals (Article 30).

The COM published a proposal to change the Qualifications Directive into a Qualifications Regulation on 13 July 2016.

The revised proposals for amending the Reception Conditions Directive and introducing a Qualifications Regulation are still under negotiation as part of the Migration and Asylum Package.

Information on labour market access and social rights in Germany

Information on access to the labour market and on securing a livelihood for asylum seekers, persons whose deportation has been suspended, persons entitled to asylum and persons recognised beneficiaries of protection (refugee protection or subsidiary protection status) in Germany can be found here [PDF, 242KB].

On the website of the Federal Ministry of Health you can find information on health care for asylum seekers in multiple languages.

Persons entitled to asylum and persons recognised as entitled to protection have access to health insurance under the same conditions as Germans. You can also find out more about this on the page of the Federal Ministry of Health.