Transfer at any cost – A social authority that does not deserve its name

A brief overview of the practice of the Bremen social authorities in recent months. 

The practice of redistributing refugees has massively intensified in Bremen under the Green Social Senator Stahmann in the last year 2021. The social authorities focus on transfer at any cost and deliberately accept that young people are driven into suicidal crises. Many of those affected are organised in Together-we-are-Bremen. We took a closer look at the practice of the social authorities. The results are shocking. But read for yourself and spread the word!
A few months ago, the counselling centre Fluchtraum had approached the public and the authorities to prevent the transfer of about 40 young refugees (now 35). [Check out newspaper articles about this and the website of Fluchtraum] According to Fluchtraum, all of them had been living in Bremen for more than a year, in some cases for up to two years, were receiving psychological treatment here, were attending schools – and yet they were still threatened with transfer. Fluchtraum demanded that the social authorities recognise this specific situation and their need for protection and refrain from transferring them.  Even the restrictive Residence Act grants the authority discretion in transfer decisions. If there are compelling reasons that stand in the way of transfer, the authority can refrain from transfer. These include mental illness and ongoing treatment. Over the past year, the social senator has increasingly interpreted this discretion to the detriment of those affected and in a maximally restrictive manner.

Transfer at any price – some facts about the decision practice of the social authority:

Tightening of practice: Since June 2021, the ZASt, which is subordinate to the social authority, has been primarily responsible for transfer. Previously, it was a two-stage procedure in which both the Migration Office and the ZASt were involved with their own decisions [Background: The redistribution procedure used to be a two-step procedure: In a first step, the migration office checked whether there were reasons against a redistribution and then granted it if necessary. In a second step, the ZASt had to check whether so-called obstacles to enforcement existed. As a result of a decision of the OVG Bremen of 23.06.2021, the responsibility for the examination of reasons and enforcement obstacles that speak against a redistribution was placed in the area of responsibility of the ZASt]. Since the Green Social Authority has been in charge, the decision-making practice has massively worsened: In almost all cases, a transfer is ordered, compelling reasons for remaining in Bremen are hardly recognized anymore. 

Specialists and care structures are ignored: The social authorities systematically disregard the professionally qualified assessments of psychiatrists and psychologists from various municipal psychosocial care facilities (such as the child and adolescent psychiatric counseling center of the health department (KIPSY), psychiatric treatment centers of the hospital association Gesundheit Nord, Refugio Bremen, JungenBüro) as well as numerous therapists and doctors in private practice. Their proven expertise is of no importance to the social authorities in the transfer process.

Unequal treatment: This is a clear and considerable deterioration compared to the decision-making practice of previous years. Professionally qualified psychological or psychiatric certificates, which were recognized by the Migration Office as sufficient to refrain from transfer a year ago, are no longer taken into account by the Social senator. The social authority interprets the official discretion in a maximally restrictive manner and to the disadvantage of the affected persons in need of treatment.

Suicidal crises due to threatened transfer: Of the 35 young refugees who have been living in Bremen for more than a year and are still threatened with transfer, seven people have already had to be treated in hospitals due to suicidal crises; another person was connected to a day clinic for crisis intervention after being informed about the transfer. For at least one person, the admission to a hospital was preceded by a suicide attempt. The social authority refrained from transfer in only one case. In all other cases, transfer is to be enforced despite existing suicidality certified by a specialist. 

Transfer despite positive court decisions: In the case of two persons, the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) of Bremen has found so-called obstacles to so that the person cannot be transferred. Until a year ago, such positive court decisions resulted in the ZASt cancelling the allocation order and the Migration Office cancelling the transfer order, and the persons concerned were granted a Duldung. The Social Office has massively tightened its practice here in the past year. It is sticking to the transfer despite positive court decisions. This is justified as follows: The social authority “assumes that the plaintiff, with appropriately continued specialist medical treatment, will be stabilized in his healing process in such a way that a transfer can be carried out in the foreseeable future. A maximum period of six months seems sufficient for the review” (from the statement of the social authority to the court). This practice not only prolongs the uncertainty for those affected and thus encourages psychological crises, but also lacks any understanding of the basic prerequisites and principles of successful psychotherapy.

Withdrawal of social benefits in a psychological crisis situation: In the case of one person, the social welfare authority stopped the payment of social benefits despite a positive OVG decision. Reason: The person could not be transferred because of the court order, but Bremen would no longer be responsible for social benefits and health insurance. The person concerned is severely traumatized and in urgent need of health care. Nevertheless, the social authorities leave him without any benefits and insurance. Until today he has not received any benefits. 

For the transfer, the social authority goes to the last instance: In the case of one of the persons who had to be hospitalized due to acute suicidal tendencies after being notified of the transfer, the administrative court ruled in summary proceedings that the transfer had to be cancelled. The social authority did not accept this court decision and filed an appeal against it before the OVG. According to the treating psychiatrist, the person concerned is severely traumatized and suicidal. Only due to public pressure did the authority withdraw its complaint. In the case of another person, the administrative court proposed a compromis (social authority cancels transfer and the person concerned bears the court costs) on the basis of several weeks of treatment at the Bremen East Clinic for acute suicidal tendencies. The social authority has rejected this compromise, which further delays the proceedings and leaves the affected person in uncertainty. Here, too, a tightening of the practice is clearly evident.

local football teams support their players, Foto: TWAB

False claims by the authority

The facts listed above make it clear that the social authority under Green leadership has become a migration policy hardliner on the topic of transfer.

This became particularly obvious already at the beginning of 2020: in an administrative instruction, the social authority had ordered the use of force against unaccompanied minors in the form of hand and foot restraints to enforce their transfer. This illegal administrative instruction, which violated the ban on violence in youth welfare, provoked massive criticism among those affected and in professional circles in Bremen as well as nationwide. But it took just under two years for Bremen’s social welfare department to publish a new administrative instruction that now no longer orders the “use of direct coercion” against unaccompanied minors. So in the future, the Youth Welfare Office will no longer have young people under their protection put in shackles to break their resistance to being redistributed to another federal state. However, the social senator continues to adhere to its fundamental course of transfer at any price. 

Without the massive tightening of the decision-making practice, the 35 people to whom the petition of Fluchtraum refers would have long since received a Duldung in Bremen and many of the psychological crises of the last weeks and months could have been avoided. The social authorities could still defuse the situation at any time by declaring their responsibility in the 35 proceedings. This is legally possible at any time and without any problems. The long periods of stay of up to two years, the involvement in school or German courses as well as the mental illnesses and ongoing treatments certified by specialists are also sufficient, from a purely legal point of view, to justify compelling reasons for remaining in Bremen. Nevertheless, the social authorities do not take this reality into account and put forward alleged legal obstacles. 

We have analysed these claims by the social department and strongly need to speak against them:

Protest in front of social authorities office, 11.1.2022, Foto: TWAB

Pending proceedings In its press release of Jan. 11, 2022, the social senator writes: “However, in the majority of the cases presented, the judicial clarification has not yet been completed.” They would have to wait for the proceedings to be finished.This is wrong. The authority can declare their responsibility for the cases at any time and thus end the court proceedings prematurely. After all, it is the affected persons who have gone to court to challenge the authority’s decisions – and not the other way around. It would be possible to offer a compromise or to change the official assessment, e.g. on the basis of the newly submitted medical report. 

Court decisions are legally binding In some proceedings, there have already been negative court decisions. In some cases, main proceedings are still pending, and the legal proceedings have been completed for only three persons. However, this does not mean – as claimed by the social authorities – that they can no longer overturn their own transfer decisions. For even in the case of negative court decisions, the authority can, of course, change its decision on the basis of a new assessment or new reasons and revoke its decision retroactively, as § 49 VwvfG states: “A lawful non-beneficial administrative act may, even after it has become incontestable, be revoked in whole or in part with effect for the future […].” A court order merely states that the person affected cannot oblige the authority to revoke the transfer. The order, however, does not say that the authority may not cancel the transfer on its part. Thus, the social senator can, of course, change its own decision at any time (e.g., based on the submission of new up-to-date reports). 

Unequal treatment One of the most common arguments by social senator is that of alleged unequal treatment. If the demand for the approx. 35 affected persons is addressed, this would mean unequal treatment for other persons. This statement by the social authorities is also deliberately misleading. As already explained above, the aggravated current situation has only arisen because the authorities (and partly the administrative courts) have massively worsened their decision-making practice in the last year. If the persons concerned had come to Bremen one or two years earlier, they would have been granted a Duldung long ago. The reason for this unequal treatment by the authorities and the courts is a well-known pattern: if too many people fall under the discretion provided by law, the discretion is reduced to the disadvantage of those affected. If too many people suffer from massive traumatic stress disorders e.g., transfer is not stopped for a correspondingly large number of people, but the criteria for recognizing health reasons are tightened.

Medical treatment is provided even after redistribution In almost all transfer decisions, but also in some court decisions, it is claimed that the persons concerned could resume psychological/psychiatric treatment after the transfer and thus stabilize themselves. In this context, reference is made to the purely objective existence of treatment options at the destination of the transfer, such as lists of established psychotherapists in the vicinity. However, the real situation and experience show that the possibility of psychosocial treatments does not actually exist. Up to 1,250 people live in the camp in Oerbke. The camp is located 2 km from the nearest bus stop. The maximum length of stay in the camp is 18 months. Many of the psychotherapists in private practice have waiting lists of months, offer treatment only in German or are not trained in trauma therapy. 
In addition, the reference to possible psychological care at the destination of transfer completely ignores common (trauma) psychological principles. After all, a secure external living situation is an elementary basic prerequisite for the success of psychotherapeutic treatment. However, transfer means the beginning of the asylum procedure and for the vast majority of people the threat of deportation to Italy, Spain, etc.. In the camps such as Oerbke, Bramsche, Halberstadt, etc., deportations at dawn are part of everyday life. If a Dublin deportation fails to materialize, the national asylum procedure begins – and usually ends after a year and a half at the latest with a negative court decision and an order to leave the country. This constant threat naturally has a significant negative impact on the psychological situation of those affected and clearly limits the success of therapeutic methods.

Defamation of those affected One day after the petition “Hiergeblieben – Bleiberecht statt Umverteilung!” was handed over, the social authorities published a press release in which they defamed the affected persons as liars. The social senator emphasizes that most of those affected “had sought protection from child and youth welfare services” and “untruthfully claimed that they were minors”. The social authorities refer to the results of medical age examinations. In one case, doctors had confirmed that a person was 29 years old who had claimed to be 16. With these statements, the authority aims to defame those affected and to delegitimize their demand for the right to stay. The social authorities know that there are no scientifically proven methods to determine the age of a person exactly and that all fictitious age assignments by the authorities are therefore extremely questionable. The medical age examinations are not only ethically unjustifiable and are also rejected by the ethics committee of the Federal Medical Association for this reason, but are also highly controversial scientifically. The courts decide in the appeals cases only by the file situation and submitted birth certificates, school certificates or even national passports are usually not recognized. The persons concerned are thus deprived of any possibility of proving their own age. In our research, we also did not find any results of a medical age assessment that would have classified a person as 29 years old. It can therefore be assumed that the social senator, in making its claim in the press release, is referring to its own – even more absurd – age determinations by administrative employees in the social services department and is attempting to question the credibility of the persons concerned by referring to supposed medical results. 

All these facts clearly show:

In its decision-making practice of “transfer at any price”, the Social Services Office under the leadership of the Green Senator Stahmann ignores the social and health situation of the affected persons and visibly endangers their psychological and physical integrity. The social department reacts to the justified demands for recognition of the realities of life and the human rights of those affected with defamation, false allegations and disenfranchisement. 

Together-we-are-Bremen opposes this inhuman practice and demands the right to stay for the affected people!

If you want to support us, write to the social authority, come to the actions, make a public statement, position yourself where you work or are active …