Decision of the Social Court regarding higher benefits; extensive comments on the unconstitutionality of the German Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (AsylbLG), on parallels to decisions of the highest Constitutional Court on unemployment benefits, particularly regarding the ascertainment and adjustment of needs, and on summary proceedings.
In summary proceedings, the Social Court ordered the city of Heidelberg to pay to the plaintiff, in the form of a loan, EUR 65.51 per month in addition to the standard monthly amount of EUR 360 granted under the AsylbLG.
The plaintiff, a Syrian national, had been living in Germany since 2009. His asylum proceedings were still pending, he lived in group housing in Heidelberg, and he was receiving benefits under the AsylbLG.
By way of summary proceedings, he applied for higher benefits. He argued that the amount provided for by the AsylbLG was inadequate for ensuring a humanly dignified minimum subsistence level and was therefore unconstitutional. He relied on a decision of a Higher Social Court from July 2010. In a similar case, the court had suspended the proceedings because it was of the opinion that the AsylbLG was unconstitutional, and had therefore referred the issue to Germany’s highest Constitutional Court for a decision. A decision on this was expected by the end of 2011.
With respect to unemployment benefits, the highest Constitutional Court had ruled already in February 2010 that there is fundamental right to be provided with a humanly dignified minimum subsistence level. The court also imposed specific requirements on the way (the amounts of) benefits are being determined and on the adjusting of (the amounts of) such benefits. Such requirements demand that the fixing of the amounts of benefits be empirically verifiable and transparent and that they be continually adjusted to changing circumstances.
The AsylbLG did not, in the opinion of the Social Court deciding here, satisfy these requirements.
The AsylbLG came into force in 1993. The rates of the benefits, in the opinion of the court, had been determined on the basis of estimates simply grabbed “out of the blue”. These rates, which at that time were already very low, have never been adjusted since then. The court therefore regarded it as likely that the benefits were inadequate and therefore unconstitutional. The paying of single amounts of assistance also does nothing to change this. The court also referred in this connection to statements made by the Federal Government in the Bundestag in November 2010 in which it itself declared the AsylbLG as unconstitutional.
In light of the foregoing, the court found that it was justified to award the plaintiff higher benefits in summary proceedings. Other courts had refused up to this time to issue orders in summary proceedings on account of the courts being bound by the laws as long as they have not been declared unconstitutional by the highest Constitutional Court. The court deciding here did not consider this mandatory. The court commented on the ability of the highest Constitutional Court to make decisions that are binding not only on future decisions but also on decisions made in the past that have not yet become res judicata.
The order to pay was limited (in time) by the court to the end of March 2012, because it expected a decision to have been reached by the highest Constitutional Court by then.
Decision in full text:
SG_Mannheim_10_08_2011 (PDF, 572 KB, not barrier-free, in German)