To curb migration to the country, Germany’s conservative parties have finally agreed on a guideline that is two years in the making.  But some warn it is unconstitutional.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer presented a policy suggestion on October 9.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the move comes as the two conservative parties aim to present a united front ahead of exploratory coalition talks with their potential government partners, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

The CSU and the CDU propose to limit the number of people accepted for humanitarian reasons to 200,000 per year. This figure includes asylum applicants, refugees as defined by the Geneva Convention and people who attempt to come to Germany through family reunification applications, Seehofer said. The limit does not apply to highly skilled workers.

According to DW, both parties were careful not to directly mention a “migration cap”, a term that has been at the centre of heated discussions in Germany for years. The CSU had originally threatened it would not be part of a government without it, while the Greens categorically reject the idea.

“We have common EU asylum policies and regulations that predetermine how people who come asking for protection as refugees must be treated,” argued Thomas Giegerich, professor for European, international and public law at the University of Saarland.

He told DW: “EU law does not include a migration cap for people in need of protection. If someone comes from a country in the throes of civil war and it’s clear that they cannot go back there, they have the right to be protected and must not be turned away.”

This, Giegerich emphasizes, is not only true for those people who are personally persecuted and qualify for asylum. It also applies to refugees fleeing violence in their home countries who would be granted subsidiary protection. And all asylum applicants – even if it turns out they do not qualify – have the right to have their individual case examined thoroughly according to the German constitution, or Basic Law.

“An individual’s human rights cannot be infringed by a quota,” Marei Pelzer, legal policy advisor at refugee activist organization Pro Asyl, told DW. “This might work differently for workers’ migration laws, where the state can control the numbers according to the demand in certain fields. But it’s not an option when it comes to protecting human rights.”

However, the CSU and CDU have attempted to address this issue. Their proposal states that they want to “achieve” a limit of 200,000 migrants, but that if an unforeseen situation occurred, the number could be adjusted upward or downward.