Several cities in Germany are piloting the use of a payment card that can only be used by asylum seekers.

According to a new law passed by parliament last month, asylum seekers will receive a portion of their monthly financial aid on the card and the rest in cash.

The law gives local authorities exemptions and the freedom to decide how much cash asylum seekers can withdraw.

This is intended to prevent asylum seekers from sending less cash to family and friends outside Germany or to smugglers.

"It's discriminatory"

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Migrant rights advocates say that people fleeing war and persecution will not 'stop coming' because they will no longer receive aid only in cash, arguing that payment cards will segregate migrants and possibly lead to further exclusion.

"The idea is to create a tool of discrimination and bully refugees," said Wiebke Judith of Pro Asyl. "People need to be told clearly that they came because of civil war and persecution. A payment card will not deter them."

Decision ahead of European elections

Germany has long struggled with irregular migration and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly called for speeding up deportations.

In January, lawmakers approved legislation to make it easier to deport asylum seekers who cannot find work or integrate after a certain period of time.

The latest measure comes in the shadow of the far right, which is expected to do well in the European Parliament elections on June 9.

Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has taken an anti-immigration stance and is expected to improve on the 10.3 percent of the vote it won in the last federal elections in 2021.

Last year, the number of asylum seekers in Germany increased by just over 50 percent compared to the previous year to more than 350,000. Most asylum seekers came from Syria, followed by Turks and Afghans.