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efms Migration Report

August 2008

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EU: Boat refugees cause humanitarian and political problems

Against the background of the large number of refugees who try to reach the EU through the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union as a whole, but in particular some EU Mediterranean Member States, are increasingly facing humanitarian and political problems. Italy, Greece and Malta are particularly affected. The EU Member States in southern Europe have become the destination of an increasing number of so-called boat refugees also because of Spain"s successful strategy to block the entry of such persons. According to information of official bodies in the countries affected, the authorities can hardly cope with the inflow of refugees which has partly lead to precarious conditions in the treatment and accommodation of persons and in the compliance with human and asylum rights. Greece, for example, has therefore been criticised for quite a while: In April, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for instance, has made a call to the EU Member States for the first time to stop the transfer of refugees to Greece, which is based on the provisions foreseen by the Dublin Convention, due to the unacceptable conditions in the refugee camps and because of coarse violations of the European asylum law. The Dublin Convention obliges asylum seekers to file their applications in the country in which they entered the EU and allows other EU States to return migrants to the country of first entry. The Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dora Bakogiannis, called it unfair that countries which experienced no mass immigration of refugees due to their geographic situation in central Europe categorically condemned Greece. She expected these countries to take on a just part of the burdens. Besides the increasing number of refugees, a qualitative change in the group of refugees seems to aggravate the situation as well: according to information of the UN"s Children"s Fund (UNICEF), an ever increasing number of unattended minors is trying to enter the EU by sea. The representative of UNICEF in the Moroccan port city of Tanger, Mohammed Serifi Villar, said that due to the fact that it has become ever more difficult for adults to enter the EU legally or even illegally, children would be sent out instead more and more frequently. Due to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children, which is applied throughout the EU and on the basis of which EU Member States would at first be obliged to take care of the children, their parents would see more prospects of success for them.
FR 06.08.08 // Der Standard online 24.08.08 // Handelsblatt 26.08.08

Hardship commissions are given lasting legal basis

With the adoption of the Labour Migration Governance Act by the Federal Cabinet on 27 August 2008, the Federal Government has also revoked the limitation of the hardship provision until 31 December 2009, which had been introduced within the framework of the Immigration Act of 2005. The amendment of the Residence Act implied by this change will allow the federal states to set-up hardship commissions for the long run. Hardship commissions can petition the superior authorities of a Federal State to grant foreigners residence titles regardless of other provisions stipulated by the law. The Ministry of the Interior justified this measure by saying that this procedure has proved and that meanwhile all federal states had set-up hardship commissions, which worked successfully. On the one hand refugee relief organisations welcomed that the limitation of the hardship regulation was abolished, on the other hand, however, they criticised that the provisions on the so-called tolerated refugees (foreigners obliged to leave the country, whose deportation was temporarily suspended) also in future foreseen in the Labour Migration Governance Act would "fall short". According to the new provisions, highly qualified, tolerated persons, for instance, will in future be given the opportunity to obtain a residence permit to take up employment. The prerequisites would be so strict, however, that even the aim of the legislation to recruit qualified workers from among the group of tolerated persons would be unlikely to be reached, commented Pro Asyl.
Press release of BMI 27.08.08 // Press release of Pro Asyl 27.08.08 // 27.08.08

Debate on "inflationary" number of integration awards

Against the background of the ever growing number of prizes awarded for successful integration projects, politicians and integration experts have warned of a devaluation of the prizes and have called for practicing a more careful awarding policy. Even though there were no exact data available on the growth in the number of awards, a rapid increase would be noticeable, according to the experts. Cem Özdemir, Member of the European Parliament for the Green party, said mockingly that if the number of awards kept growing as it has done most recently, there would be no one left in five years to be awarded any more. The spokesman for migration policy of the Left party in North Rhine-Westphalia, Ali Atalan, warned of awards being reduced to serve as alibi activities and added that awards indeed had an important function, but could not be more than a symbolic part of the overall integration policy. In North Rhine Westphalia, he saw a tendency that the hard integration work would fall back behind its symbols. The Member of the Federal Parliament for the SPD party, Lale Akgün, demanded a differentiated view of the topic. First of all, she said, more awards would be a good thing as they were incentives for both the awarded parties and for the audience. It would have to be clear, however, that integration policy could not be replaced by awards, said Akgün.
Ruhr Nachrichten 30.07.08

Education: First text book for Islamic instruction classes published

On 27 August 2008, the first textbook for Islamic instruction classes at German schools was published under the title "saphir" (Arabic for "message"). In North Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria, Bremen and Lower Saxony, the book is not only intended to familiarize Muslim pupils in grades five and six with the most important terms and rituals of Islam but also to outline the points the Christian and Muslim "Lebenswelt" have in common. The spokesman of the Education Ministry of North Rhine Westphalia, Jörg Harm, made clear, however, that the book would not serve as basis for religious instruction classes in a classical denominational sense. In contrast to Christian instruction classes, Islamic instruction classes had not the function of offering religious education but were rather meant to facilitate a general knowledge. Even though negotiations would be held in order to offer Islamic instruction classes on a denominational basis, the basic principle of offering classes "in accordance with the principle of religious communities" needed to be adhered to. To meet this criterion, however, the Muslim community first needed to be officially recognised by the state as a religious community, said Harms.
SZ 18.08.08 // Der Spiegel online 26.08.08 // BZ 27.08.08 // Berliner Morgenpost online 27.08.08

One out of four families in Germany has a migration background

According to the Federal Statistical Office, one out of four families in Germany had a migration background in 2007: in 2.3 million of the 8.6 million families with minor children (27 per cent) at least one parent would be a foreigner, a naturalised person or an ethnic German repatriate. Moreover, these families had more children than German families - on average, 1.74 children would live in immigrant families while German families had only 1.54 children. In addition, the portion of families with a migration background having three or more children stood at 16 per cent, which is almost as twice as much as among German families with 9 per cent. Moreover, the couples from immigrated families lived more often in traditional forms of cohabitation: of the 2.3 million couples of foreign origin in 2007, 82 per cent had been married while the portion among Germans without migration background amounted to 72 per cent.
Press release of Destatis 05.08.08 // FAZ 06.06.08 // BZ 06.08.08

The Muslim life in Germany in figures

According to information of the Zentralinstitut Islam-Archive Deutschland (central institute Islam archive Germany) in Soest, the number of Muslims living in Germany has risen to 3.5 million (3.508 million) persons in 2007, which constitutes an increase of 6.5 per cent compared to the previous year. This increase would be due to the excess of births over deaths and to immigration for the purpose of family reunification, explained M. Salim Abdullah, the senior director of the institute. In 2007, the number of Germans who converted to Islam amounted to approximately 2,400 persons, whereas in 2006 this figure stood at 4,000. The most frequently quoted reasons for their conversion were primarily problems with the Christian dogma of God"s trinity as well as the clear religious rules of Islam. The number of mosques rose from 159 to 206. As regards the position of Muslims towards the political parties in Germany, the consent to the parties represented in the Federal Parliament has decreased: 52 per cent have sympathy with the SPD party (in 2006: 59 per cent), 14.4 per cent with the Bündnis 90/Green party (in 2006: 17.7 per cent), 4.6 per cent with the CDU party (in 2006: 6.4 per cent) and 2.3 per cent with the Left party (in 2006: 2.9 per cent). Less than 1 per cent supported the FDP party (in 2006: 1.9 per cent). A total of 23 per cent of the Muslims were undecided about their preferred party. the Christian news portal 18.08.08

Federal Administrative Court: No family reunification if unemployment benefit II is granted

Children of foreigners living in Germany may not join their parents if this would lead to the formers" entitlement to benefits to secure their livelihood in accordance with the Code of Social Law II (SGB II), e.g. an entitlement to the so-called Arbeitslosengeld II (unemployment benefit II). This decision was taken by the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) on 26 June 2008. The judges of the Leipzig-based court argued that the reunification of a family would, inter alia, depend on the question if the livelihood in Germany would be secured or not. In this context it would be irrelevant if the benefits would be used or not.
Press release of BVerwG of 26.08.08 // FR 27.08.08

Berlin: Pupils leaving school prematurely threatened by deportation

By amending the indications of how to apply the Residence Act, the Senate of Berlin has introduced the possibility to deny young foreigners a permanent residence status in case they do not strive for obtaining a school leaving certificate by frequently not attending school classes or if they have too poor marks. This provision would be aimed at offering benefits to do a vocational training course according to the principle of demanding effort while offering support. By introducing this measure, the Senate wants to reduce the high number of pupils with a migration background in Berlin who leave school prematurely and to improve the living conditions of such youths in Germany, said the state secretary for internal affairs, Ulrich Freise (SPD). Contrary to the concerns of migrant organisations, deportations are to be effected only if major criminal offences would be committed. The Green party, the Left party, the Refugee Council, institutions of the Churches as well as the integration commissioner of the Senate, Günther Piening, sharply criticised the new directive. Piening, for example, said the provision would be intended to use the Foreigners" Law to correct deficiencies in the education policy which have not been tackled by negligence.
Tagesspiegel online 20.08.08 // Die Welt online 21.08.08 // SZ 22.08.08

ZMD organises humour contest for Muslims

On its internet platform for youths, "Waymo", the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) has launched the "Muslim Comedy Contest". The contents published on this platform comprise, inter alia, jokes, amusing songs and videos around the topic of Islam. The Secretary General of the ZMD, Aiman Mazyek, explained that this measure was meant to show that Islam would be no taboo for humorists and comedians. Mazyek added that some Muslims would be too vulnerable when it comes to their religious feelings. If Muslims increased their sense for self-irony and humour for example by establishing an Islamic comedy scene, they could also react much cooler to derision. But also the wide-spread idea among non-Muslims, however, that Muslims were too "thin-skinned" would paint a distorted picture which seemed to be confirmed, however, by the protests about the Muhammad cartoons.
Die Welt 07.08.08 // Die Welt 15.08.08

Asylum statistics

In August 2008, a total of 1,659 persons have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany. This is a decrease of 7.5 per cent (-134 persons) over the month before as well as compared to August 2007 with a decrease of 13.5 per cent (-259 persons). The main countries of origin in August were Iraq (568), Turkey (92), Vietnam (82) and Syria (75) followed by Kosovo (66). In August, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 1,738 asylum applications. A total of 676 persons (38.9 per cent) were recognised as refugees under the Geneva Refugee Convention. These included 24 persons (1.4 per cent) who were recognised as entitled to asylum under Art. 16a of the German Basic Law, and 652 persons (37.5 per cent) protected under § 3 of the Asylum Procedure Act in conjunction with § 60 (1) of the Residence Act. The applications of 530 persons (30.5 per cent) have been rejected. The cases of a further 484 persons (27.8 per cent) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. due to suspensions of asylum procedures because persons have withdrawn their applications).
Press release of the BMI 16.09.08

August 2008

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