Abstract: Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU (RCD) stipulates that member states shall consider the special needs of asylum seekers with, inter alia, mental illnesses. Similar to other member states, Germany failed to transpose the RCD into national law within the two years prescribed. Due to the inactivity of the federal legislator, the Directive became directly applicable. In the German system of cooperative federalism, this means that the application of the RCD moved downstream to the responsibility of the German Länder (states), which have since found themselves with vague responsibilities, lacking a clear regulation cascade from the federal level. How do Länder implement the RCD and how is its implementation in Germany affected by the federal institutional setting? The objective of this article is to analyse and systematise the patterns of the RCD’s implementation on the subnational level in Germany. On the one hand, the findings suggest that the open formulation of the RCD and the federal government’s inactivity allow for a higher degree of liberty in applying the Directive on the subnational level. On the other hand, most measures taken hitherto have been rather small and ad‐hoc and some Länder have even failed to adopt any significant changes at all. The RCD’s implementation in Germany has consisted of a “tinkering” process, generating an incoherent patchwork of policy outputs. The resulting unequal standards in the reception of asylum seekers displaying mental illnesses present far‐reaching consequences for the people affected.
Keywords: asylum policy; German federalism; implementation; Länder; psychological care