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International affairs
Refugees and asylum

The European Union is facing a shared task and many challenges in the context of refugees and asylum. European legislation also contains provisions on access to the labour market and to social benefits.

Legal framework

Article 78 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states that the European Union (EU) shall develop a common policy on asylum, subsidiary protection and temporary protection. To this end, Article 78 (2) TFEU empowers the Council and the European Parliament to adopt various measures for a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) via the ordinary legislative procedure.

The website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which is the lead ministry for asylum issues, offers an overview of EU legislation in the field of asylum to date.

The directives also include provisions on access to the labour market and to social benefits.

Examples of avenues to access under EU legislation on refugees and asylum

The Reception Conditions Directive, Directive 2013/33/EU, regulates the rights of persons who apply for international protection (refugee protection or subsidiary protection).

  • Applicants must receive access to the labour market no later than nine months from the date when the application for international protection was lodged, if no decision has yet been taken on it (Article 15 (1))
  • Benefits must be granted which provide an adequate standard of living for applicants, guarantee their subsistence and protect their physical and mental health (Article 17 (2))
  • The Directive also establishes minimum standards for health care (Article 19)

On 13 July 2016, the European Commission published a proposal for a revision of the Reception Conditions Directive, which is now being considered by the Council and the European Parliament.

The Qualification Directive, Directive 2011/95/EU, establishes standards for the qualification (or recognition) of persons as being entitled to international protection (refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection) and for the content of the protection granted.

For example, it stipulates that, after international protection has been granted, beneficiaries have the same access to the labour market as the country’s resident population (Article 26). The same applies to access to social assistance benefits (in Germany: Book II of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) for employable claimants, Book XII for non-employable claimants), although access may be limited to core benefits in the case of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection (Article 29). With regard to health care, the Member States grant recognised beneficiaries of protection the same access as the resident population (Article 30).

On 13 July 2016, the European Commission published a proposal to replace the Qualification Directive with a Regulation, which is now being considered by the Council and the European Parliament.

Information on labour market access and social rights in Germany

Information on labour market access for asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in Germany, and on benefits to ensure an adequate subsistence level, is available here [PDF, 243KB] .

The Federal Ministry of Health’s website offers information on health care for asylum seekers in various languages.

Recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have access to health insurance under the same conditions as German nationals. More information on this can also be found on the Federal Ministry of Health’s website.

International affairs