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Herbert Grönemeyer, Katja Riemann, Klaas Heufer-Umlauf: More than 50 celebrities have signed the protest letter

Photo: Gerald Matzka / Britta Pedersen / Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images / picture alliance / WireImage / Getty Images

The list ranges from Herbert Grönemeyer to Katja Riemann, Deichkind and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf to Nina Hoss: More than 50 celebrities from art and culture in Germany have signed an open letter to protest against the federal government's asylum policy. "Instead of pragmatically and unswervingly adhering to effective solutions, the migration policy awakening threatens to suffocate in a populist debate," says the appeal, which is available to SPIEGEL.

The non-governmental organization #LeaveNoOneBehind had launched the initiative. The signatories also include SPIEGEL columnist Samira El-Ouassil and former columnist Sibylle Berg.

In the coalition agreement, the traffic light parties had spoken out in favour of better standards in the asylum procedures of the EU states, according to the signatories, and now the federal government is committed to "ensuring that many people are locked up at the external borders and receive worse standards in fast-track procedures".

Background to the criticism: Next Thursday, the EU interior ministers want to discuss the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which has been controversial for years. Above all, countries on the EU's external borders, such as Italy, have a great interest in reaching an agreement soon with a view to next year's European elections.

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In essence, the main aim is to ensure that at least some of the asylum procedures are relocated to Europe's external borders in the future. In the event of a rejection, the applicants are to be deported directly to their home country. The EU Commission had already presented a reform package on the subject in 2020. The German government, namely Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), is now going along with the proposals – and is thus pursuing a much more restrictive course in asylum policy than envisaged in the coalition agreement.

»Contest of unworthiness«

The protest of the celebrities is all the sharper. "Instead of pushing ahead with the promised improvements, you now want to agree to the most massive tightening of asylum laws ever," the letter reads. In the coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP had set themselves the goal of ending the suffering and illegal rejections at the external borders. But instead of taking action or criticizing "systematic breaches of the law and mistreatment of those seeking protection at the borders," the letter says, "we only hear calls for fences and detention camps."

Another accusation is that the German government supports an expansion of safe third countries, which means that even people from Syria or Afghanistan could increasingly be rejected in Europe. Rather, the federal government should "push ahead with improvements in the right of asylum instead of agreeing to further deteriorations."

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Luisa-Céline Gaffron: Letter of protest to open dialogue

Photo: private

Migration policy is "lost in a contest of unworthiness," the letter says. We see that populism is also gaining the upper hand in Germany, and solutions in the sense and services of a universally valid humanity are falling by the wayside.«

Actress Luisa-Céline Gaffron is among those who pushed the protest letter. "We, as celebrities, want to position ourselves clearly against the course of the federal government in asylum policy," she told SPIEGEL, "the open letter is intended to open up a social dialogue, which, in our opinion, has taken place far too little so far." The aim is to prevent a shift to the right. "The right to asylum is a fundamental right," Gaffron stressed, "if Europe takes a step backwards here, it will be dramatic."

The moderator Klaas Heufer-Umlauf warned that human rights must be protected, especially in times of crisis. "We have the largest refugee movement in Europe since the Second World War. I expect politicians to get down to business, present humane solutions and ensure cohesion instead of capitulating to the task with populist demands."

"At some point, we will have to explain to our children why we didn't do anything. Politicians must not allow themselves to be dissuaded from what they promised in the coalition agreement because of right-wing propaganda," warned author Anna Dushime.

Comedian Til Reiners said that "people are already being imprisoned, disenfranchised and allowed to die." The asylum reform should cast this into EU laws. "The federal government should leave the right-wing slide and reflect on what our constitution and the EU were once founded for," said Reiners.

How long there has been a dispute about the right of asylum in Germany and how long celebrities have been positioning themselves in this regard can be seen in Herbert Grönemeyer's work. About 30 years ago, the singer was one of the signatories of a letter of protest against the "Bonn Asylum Compromise" at the time. Fundamental values of democracy must not be sacrificed to right-wing violence," said the letter initiated by Pro Asyl at the time.