Germany limits cash benefit payments for asylum-seekers as migration numbers increase

Erdina Laca, a 45-year-old asylum seeker, shows her special payment card in front of a grocery store, in Eichsfeld, Germany, Wednesday, April 24, 2024.
Erdina Laca, a 45-year-old asylum seeker, shows her special payment card in front of a grocery store, in Eichsfeld, Germany, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Copyright Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press
Copyright Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press
By Euronews
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The new rule issues migrants a benefit card for local use, limiting cash withdrawals and banning international transfers.


A payment card exclusively for asylum-seekers has been introduced in Germany, following the recent parliamentary approval of a new rule.

Under the new regulation, migrants are issued a card to access their benefits, which can be used at local stores and for services, but it limits their cash withdrawals and bans international money transfers.

The aim is to prevent migrants from sending money to family and friends abroad, or to smugglers.

In Eichsfeld, Thuringia, 45-year-old Laca from Albania and her family were among the first in Germany to receive half of their government benefits as cashless payments on a plastic card.

“With half the money that is on the card, I can buy groceries, and with the other half (in cash) I can buy in every shop whatever I need for me and my children," Laca said. 

Germany remains more reliant on cash payments than many other European countries, with some businesses still not accepting card payments.

Jihad Ammuri, a 20-year-old asylum-seeker from Syria, said that not all stores accept his payment card.

I tried to make a purchase in a shop, but they told me that they do not partner with this card. You can't buy with it from here. And it's also not working in all of Germany.
Jihad Ammuri
Asylum-seeker from Damascus, Syria

Migrant advocacy groups have criticised the new regulation as discriminatory and claim that it will possibly ostracise them further.

"It must be stated clearly that people are coming due to civil war and persecution; a payment card won't deter them," Wiebke Judith from Pro Asyl said.

Judith added, “The aim here is to create an instrument of discrimination and to bully refugees”. 

Germany has been trying to clamp down on migration for months. 

This latest measure comes just weeks before the European elections on 9 June.

Tougher migrant approach

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has effectively exploited the hardening attitudes of Germans towards migrants.

The AfD, known for its anti-migration stance, is expected to significantly increase its share of the vote from the 10.3% it secured in the 2021 federal election.

Attitudes toward migration have hardened in Germany as large numbers of asylum-seekers have arrived, in addition to refugees from Ukraine, and local authorities have struggled to find accommodation.

The number of people applying for asylum in Germany last year rose to more than 350,000 - an increase of just over 50% compared with the year before. The largest number of asylum-seekers came from Syria, followed by Turks and Afghans.

In January, lawmakers approved legislation intended to ease deportation of unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly said that authorities need to speed up deportations.


Germany, like several other European countries, has also started classifying some countries, such as Moldova and Georgia, as "safe countries of origin” - meaning asylum-seekers from there can be quickly rejected and deported faster than in the past.

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