Reimbursement notices: Refugee sponsors in Bonn asked to pay up

Reimbursement notices : Refugee sponsors in Bonn asked to pay up

The job center in Bonn has sent notices requesting reimbursement for the financial support of 39 refugees. Meanwhile, there is some confusion about sponsor obligations to financially support refugees.

For Ibrahim Hamo, it’s his existence that is at stake. The Syrian-born small business owner and father of five has just received a request for payment of 35,934 euros from the job center. And that's because in 2014, as part of the humanitarian NRW refugee program, he extracted his brother and his family of four out of war-torn Syria using legal means. He signed a declaration of commitment to get them here, so that the relatives did not have to make the life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean.

Hamo completely supported the family in his home until they were all granted asylum after one year. He thought that his obligation to financially support the family would be over once they received asylum status. But in June 2015, he told GA that the discussion between the federal and state government on this policy was confusing for him. He was afraid that he would be asked to pay for the continuing costs of supporting the family. And this is exactly what has occurred. He wrote to the job center that having to pay the reimbursement fee is beyond his economic means.

Monika and Theo Bühler, from a Beuel refugee organization, say that Hamo explicitly agreed to the declaration of support, with reference to a limited period of time, and noting that the mandatory credit check of his ability to pay had been insufficient.

Hamo relied on his assumption that his obligation of support would end once the relatives gained asylum status.

The Bühlers belong to an organization that helps Syrian refugees. They say there is also a Syrian woman who has been ordered to pay back 33,835 euros and that all she can do is file a legal complaint just like Hamo. They fear that the job center will focus on Syrian refugees with their demands for reimbursement.

But Ursula Gördel from the job center says this is not the case. They do their job based on legal guidelines, not ethnic origin and there have been many cases on the issue of obligation declarations. Contrary to the legal opinion of the previous NRW government, the court has ruled that those who have signed a declaration of commitment are obligated to fulfill this even after the supported parties have been granted refugee status.

“There is dissatisfaction on all sides”

Gördel says there have been 39 cases in Bonn in which a reimbursement decision has been issued, as in the case of Hamo. The amounts range between 1,500 and 57,000 euros, depending on factors such as the number of those being supported, the amount of time and the living situation of the person who pledged to support the refugees. Unreasonable hardship is to be avoided. According to Gördel, those who are affected have the possibility to request a legal review with an administrative court.

Christoph Nicolai, head of Syrian refugee support at the Johannes Church community, doesn’t view the situation as pessimistically as the Bühlers. Reimbursement notices were also received by the Godesberg sponsors. “But there is movement in the matter. The authorities also recognize that with the signing by the sponsor, either no information, insufficient information or wrong information was provided.” It was not only the sponsors who assumed that their liability would cease when those being supported would receive asylum status. After the decision of a Federal Administrative Court, there was “dissatisfaction on all sides”. Everyone one was waiting for a decision from the interior ministry.

(Orig. text: Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu / Translation; ck)