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efms Migration Report


April 2003

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EU ministers: Refugees from Iraq are to seek shelter in neighbouring countries

Against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, EU interior and justice ministers, at their informal meeting in Veria (Greece), have expressed the view that refugees from Iraq are to seek shelter in neighbouring Arab countries. According to Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD), all EU governments consider it sensible to provide relief for refugees in the region itself. Philippos Petsalnikos, the Greek justice minister, acting as representative of the current EU presidency, has emphasised the "organisational difficulties" that all relief efforts outside the region would have to face. EU Commissioner Antonio Vitorino has informed the public that the European Union, through its relief organisation Echo, has allocated 21 million for refugee aid.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has started relief efforts in order to cater for as many as 600,000 refugees from Iraq. According to UNHCR commissioner Ruud Lubbers, however, the number of Iraqi refugees actually arriving in neighbouring countries has so far been significantly lower than anticipated, with many Iraqis temporarily moving to rural areas inside Iraq itself.

In addition, EU ministers have discussed several other issues concerning asylum and refugee policy. David Blunkett, the British interior minister, for example, has suggested setting up processing centres for refugees which would be situated outside EU territory. According to his proposals, refugees submitting asylum petitions in an EU country are to be sent back to processing centres outside the EU, where they would have to wait for their applications to be decided on. Other EU ministers, however, have expressed doubts as to the feasibility of this initiative.

Another British proposal, which calls for a national quota system under which asylum seekers could be distributed among EU member states, has also met with criticism from fellow EU ministers. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily has called the proposals "impracticable", even though he had advocated a similar quota system a few years ago.
FR 29.03.03 // Das Parlament 07.04.03 // FR 09.04.04 // SZ 09.04.03


Statements on migration bill by state commissioners for integration and by interior policy spokespersons of the opposition parties CDU/CSU

The public debate surrounding the government bill on migration and integration has lost momentum in April. There were only two public occasions, the meeting of state commissioners for migration and integration, and the conference of interior policy spokespersons of the opposition CDU/CSU parties, where politicians reiterated their positions concerning the government's migration bill.

At their meeting in Erfurt, state commissioners for migration and integration have called on the federal government and state governments to reach a compromise in the migration issue as soon as possible. In addition, commissioners have reached consensus on proposals to extend the scope of language courses for migrants (from 600, as proposed by the government migration bill, to 900 lessons). Commissioners have also called on the federal government to shoulder a larger proportion of the ensuing financial burden, and to include long-term foreign residents in public integration programmes. Outvoting representatives of Bavaria and Hesse, commissioners have also advocated setting up a commission for hardship cases.

However, migration and integration commissioners have been unable to agree on whether integration matters are to be removed from the government integration bill in order to be passed as a separate integration law, in case there will be no parliamentary majority for the entire legislative package. Whereas Eckehard Peters, state commissioner for foreign residents in Thuringia, supports splitting up the migration bill, a move supported by state governments in Bavaria and Hesse, Dagmar Lill, Bremen's commissioner, has rejected these proposals.

At a conference of the interior policy spokespersons of the opposition CDU/CSU parties, Roland Gewalt (CDU), the coordinator of the conference, Hartmut Koschyk (CSU), the interior policy spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party, and Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), the deputy party chairman, called for a comprehensive revision of the government migration bill. In their view, the main goal of the legislation should be to limit migration inflows significantly and to foster integration of long-term foreign residents with a legal residence status.

Among other things, the CDU/CSU representatives have demanded the following amendments: The general ban on recruiting foreign labour must not be revoked, and the existing catalogue of legal residence titles (including toleration certificates) has to be upheld. Furthermore, they demand that government plans to introduce a points systems for admitting qualified foreign labour are to be abandoned completely. Finally, the politicians are opposed to any extension of legal entitlements to political asylum, and insist on lowering the age limit for non-German children (who enter the country in order to live with their parents in Germany) to ten years. With reference to government plans to introduce integration courses, CDU/CSU representatives have reiterated their demands for expanding the group of participants by including not only new arrivals, but also long-term foreign residents, with the federal government covering all ensuing costs.
dpa 02.04.03 // FAZ 07.04.03


Federal Interior Ministry plans to repatriate Afghan refugees

In the run-up to the conference of German interior ministers, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has presented detailed plans for repatriating Afghan refugees, which will be put to the vote at the next ministerial meeting in mid-May. Under the plans, authorities are to revoke asylum entitlements of Afghan nationals who have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. Mr. Schily argues that changed conditions in Afghanistan allow a repatriation of refugees. However, the proposals allow exceptions in cases where refugees have been living in Germany for more than six or eight years and have been able to earn their living. Refugees who are willing to return to their home country are to be rewarded financially.

Meanwhile, the administrative court in Kassel has announced that it will re-open asylum cases of Afghan refugees which have suspended for a longer period of time. The court has stated that it can be assumed with "sufficient certainty" that refugees returning to Afghanistan are not faced with persecution by the Taliban; consequently, appeals by rejected asylum applicants from Afghanistan are "unlikely" to be upheld. In view of ministerial plans to repatriate Afghan refugees, rejected asylum applicants from this country will probably no longer be recognised as entitled to protection against deportation either.
FR 31.03.03 // FR 26.04.03


Administrative Court casts doubts on naturalisation procedures in Bavaria

The Bavarian Administrative Court (BayVGH) has upheld the appeal of a Greek national whose application for naturalisation has been rejected on account of his refusal to give up his Greek nationality. The court ruling, which is expected to set a precedent for future cases, has confirmed an earlier decision by a lower administrative court in Ansbach. In effect, it casts doubts on naturalisation procedures in Bavaria as a whole. Under current law, EU citizens from Italy, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal and Greece are entitled to be naturalised in Germany without having to give up their original nationality; the states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, however, have so far generally failed to implement this rule.

Bavaria has justified its tough stance on naturalisation by referring to the Foreigners Act. Under federal German law, EU nationals applying for a second nationality are only entitled to keep their original nationality if their country of origin allows dual citizenship for German citizens, too. MP Norbert Geis (CSU) has therefore called the Bavarian naturalisation procedures "absolutely lawful", as most other EU countries allow discretionary decisions by authorities in cases where German nationals apply for dual citizenship. Consequently, in his view it would be wrong to say that mutual entitlements have already been established.

The Bavarian Administrative Court (BayVGH), on the other hand, has ruled that Greek naturalisation procedures fulfil the conditions set by German law. Notwithstanding the fact that Greek law does not comprise respective regulations, the court considers it to be sufficient that Greek naturalisation procedures tolerate dual nationalities in cases where German citizens have applied for Greek nationality. (Ref.: 5 BV 02.1943)
NZ 15.04.03


Asylum statistics

In April 2003, 4,012 persons have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, a decrease by 7.3 % (317 persons) over the previous month; compared to April 2002, respective figures have fallen by as much as 33.3 % (2,007 persons).

In April 2003, asylum applicants' main countries of origin were Turkey (526), Iraq (446) Serbia and Montenegro (391), China (225), the Russian Federation (188) and Iran (151). Up to now, the war in Iraq has not led to an increase in applications of refugees from Iraq. On the contrary, the number of Iraqi refugees has even fallen by 25%, compared to last month.

In April 2003, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on the applications of 7,688 persons, 135 (1.8 %) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. A further 98 persons (1.3 %) have been recognised as protected against deportation according to § 51 Par.1 Foreigners Act ("semi-asylum status"). The applications of 5,344 persons (69.5%) have been rejected; among them, 122 persons will also be granted protection because there are other obstacles to deportation according to §53 Foreigners Act.
Press Statement BMI 14.05.03


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