The Greens still needed negotiations, but now they agree: the way is clear in the Bundestag to amend the Asylum Seeker Benefits Act.

The so-called “SocialCard” for asylum seekers in Hamburg.

It is not possible to pay with this card everywhere. Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa

SEDAN taz | The traffic light coalition appears to have resolved its dispute over the payment cards planned for refugees. you have each other “A common legal basis has been agreed,” the vice-presidents of the SPD, Greens and FDP factions announced on Friday afternoon. This means that “the wishes of the states are being implemented.”

Municipalities have long been able to provide in-kind benefits instead of cash to refugees or use payment cards, but most have not yet done so due to administrative effort and costs. In autumn, the heads of state governments and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) decided to introduce a nationwide payment card.

The Greens then disagreed with their coalition partners over whether or not a change in the law was necessary. At the beginning of March, the federal Cabinet agreed on a project to amend the Asylum Seeker Benefits Act, which the Greens parliamentary group wanted to discuss first “in peace and tranquility.”

It foresees that in the future the card will be expressly mentioned in the law as a way to receive social benefits. At the same time, application possibilities will be expanded so that asylum seekers who do not live in shared accommodation can also receive the card instead of cash benefits.

Lukas Köhler (FDP) now stressed that the agreements reached at the Prime Minister's Conference and approved by the Cabinet will be implemented “without changes in content.” “It was already possible to pay with cards before, but now we have created a common and legally secure framework,” explained Dagmar Schmidt (SPD). This guarantees “that all necessary needs can be freely covered on site, by card or by cash payment.”

Cabinet left open points

“Pocket money for the school trip, bus fare to get to the training location, electricity or Internet connection: all this must be guaranteed when payment cards are introduced on site,” explained Andreas Audretsch ( Green). It is now enshrined in law “that the level of subsistence and participation of the people is guaranteed.”

However, some points were left open in the cabinet draft that should finally be clarified in the Bundestag. This includes the question of whether an exception to the payment card is made for groups of people such as employees, trainees or students.

According to the FDP and the Union, the payment card aims to avoid incentives for “irregular immigration.” However, the role of the so-called “pull factors” has not been scientifically proven.

Increase poverty and prevent participation

The card aims to prevent transfers not only to traffickers, but also to the refugees' countries of origin. However, the Integration Media Service assumes that employed refugees, in particular, make these types of remittances. Asked by left-wing MP Gökay Akbulut, the federal government stated in February that it had no data on the volume of transfers to countries of origin financed by benefits for asylum seekers.

NGOs and social associations harshly criticized card payment plans. The Arbeiterwohlfahrt and the Paritätische, for example, warned in an open letter that the introduction would “increase poverty and prevent participation.” Pro Asyl explained that municipalities were given “great freedom to discriminate against people.” One of the criticisms is that in many places in Germany it is not possible to pay without a card, for example in markets or on second-hand platforms on the Internet. (with epd)