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Asylum Seekers Benefit Act/ principle of benefit in kind

The Asylum Seekers Benefit Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz – AsylbLG) regulates which social services asylum seekers are entitled to receive. Until the law became effective in 1993, asylum seekers were entitled to the same social benefits as the rest of the population according to the Federal Social Security Act (Bundessozialhilfegesetz – BSHG). The regulations and rates differ from other social services that are not directed at asylum seekers and for a long time were lower than Hartz-IV rates. According to § 3 AsylbLG, asylum seekers living in reception centres receive services according to the principle of benefit in kind. This principle reduced services to payment in kind. Instead of money, refugees receive donations in kind, vouchers or food packages that cover the basic needs of food, clothing and sanitary products. Besides the critique that people have to be able choose what they want eat or wear, in this system access to medical services is also highly problematic since health care is only permitted in case of medical emergencies. However, in this system people who are not medical professionals determine whether there is a need for health care or not. In 2012, the Federal Constitutional Court determined the low rates to be unconstitutional. However, the system has partially been reintroduced since 2015. The Act was introduced following the debates about the alleged exploitation of the German asylum system in order to discourage so-called “asylum cheaters”.