Since last week in Berlin, all asylum seekers at the arrival center in Reinickendorf have been tested for the new coronavirus that are arriving from Italy. This is what Karin Rietz, spokeswoman for integration senator Elke Breitenbach (left), told The Eastern Herald. “It is currently being examined whether this measure should be extended to other countries of origin or transit countries.”

According to the green MP Bettina Jarasch, this gives asylum seekers greater certainty of detecting the virus at an early stage than tourists who return from Italy. Because it is up to them whether they can be tested.

Last Wednesday there was a first so-called clarification case for a refugee woman. “The test result was negative,” says Karin Rietz. However, while the test ran almost all day, the arrival center was closed as a precaution. Berlin also left the nationwide distribution system for asylum seekers on Wednesday. This means that other federal states were unable to redistribute newly arriving asylum seekers to Berlin on Wednesday, and Berlin also did not send anyone to other federal states on Wednesday.


“It was a dress rehearsal that showed that there is still room for improvement,” says Bettina Jarasch. “It has been shown that the registration center needs additional space to accommodate newcomers in the event of an emergency.” Communication between the various authorities must also be improved. According to Jarasch, a police officer had heard of the case from a third party. The information was inaccurate, so he refused to question a woman.

But what about deportations?

In the fight against the coronavirus, it pays off that Berlin has closed all emergency shelters for refugees, says government spokeswoman Karin Rietz. The sanitary conditions there were catastrophic. “There are currently no special problems with regard to the possible spread of the coronavirus in shelters for refugees”.

But what about deportations to countries where the coronavirus is raging? For Italy, at least, the government created facts in Rome. It will not accept asylum seekers until the end of March who wants to push other European countries back there.

There have been no deportations from Berlin to South Korea since time immemorial. One person from Berlin was deported to China in 2018 and one in 2019. Currently, however, deportations to China are likely to fail due to a practical problem: there are no regular flight connections. That is why numerous Chinese tourists are stranded in Berlin.

A spokesman for the interior administration informed the TEH that tourists from China whose visa has expired will receive a fee-free visa extension for a maximum of 90 days due to “force majeure”. This applies, “as long as there are no continuous, safe flight connections to China available”.

A deportation stop would not only be necessary because of the virus

It gets really complicated with deportations to Iran affected by the coronavirus. Left-wing MPs Katina Schubert and Bettina Jarasch are calling for a nationwide ban on deportation there, not only because of the virus but also because of the catastrophic human rights situation. Jarasch says: “Iran is a highly repressive system including the death penalty. Muslims who abandon or convert their faith, homosexuals and political opponents are, particularly at risk.”

So far, the deportation figures from Berlin to Iran have been low, according to official statistics. In 2018 and 2019, it affected three people and a small double-digit number of Iranians who were sent back to other EU countries did not affect anyone in 2020. The German Evangelical Alliance believes that this could change.

Their representative, Uwe Heimowski, spoke to the press last summer about “a four-digit number of rejected asylum applications by Christian converts from Iran in Berlin and Brandenburg alone, which will soon be five digits”. If their lawsuits before administrative courts fail, they face deportation.

Conservative Christians around the Bundestag MP Volker Kauder (CDU) are calling for converted Christians from Iran to stay in Germany, even if the asylum application was rejected. In Iran, the death penalty is threatened for falling away from the Muslim faith.

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