Refugees leaving German state over new cash rules – Bild
Several asylum seekers, primarily from Syria and Afghanistan, have left the central German state of Thuringia after local authorities imposed tough controls on how refugees can spend their benefits, Bild reported on Saturday.
Under rules introduced in December last year, asylum claimants are issued with pre-paid payment cards instead of cash handouts, as a means of preventing them from abusing the system and taking money out of the state.
The card is only credited if the claimant appears in person at a local office, and remains in their assigned district. Shopping is allowed wherever Mastercard is accepted, but the card only works in the region specified by a personalized map, making it impossible for refugees to make transfers to their home countries.
District administrator Martina Schweinsburg has confirmed that 200 cards have been handed out since the change took effect last month, with all 740 refugees in the Greiz district of Thuringia set to receive one by the end of the month.
The head of refugee affairs, Dagmar Pohland, told Bild that the restriction is not unreasonable as the law requires asylum seekers to stay in the district they were assigned to for the first three months.
“Most people accept the change and are happy that they are getting something at all. But back in December, 15 refugees said 'We don't want a card, we want cash' and left shortly afterwards,” the head of refugee care added.
“Anyone who is really on the run doesn't care about the method of payment. You buy clothes or food. But some people also get overpriced cell phones, especially younger people and solo travelers,” he explained, adding that “the state has allowed too much abuse so far.”
The newspaper noted that the total number of refugees leaving the country has significantly increased since then.
Mario Voigt, the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the State Parliament of Thuringia since 2020, welcomed the initiative, saying Martina Schweinsburg is demonstrating to other authorities how to get refugee policy in order.
“What the federal and state governments cannot do, strong local communities do,” he said, as quoted by Bild.
Several other districts have acknowledged the positive impact of the measure and said they will follow suit.