efms Migration Report
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Parliamentary mediation committee postpones negotiations on migration reform until January 2004
The sub-committee which has been commissioned by the parliamentary mediation committee to hammer out a compromise on migration reform between government and opposition parties has postponed further negotiations until January 2004. Talks have been postponed in order to give federal and state interior ministries time to work out detailed legislative bills, including possible alternatives or compromise formulas. The bills are then to be reviewed by the 20-member parliamentary sub-committee. If the committee decides that the bills comprise proposals could form the basis of an all-party compromise, the parliamentary mediation committee is going to set up a smaller negotiating committee to work out a compromise, consisting of three representatives each of the red-green government coalition and the opposition CDU/CSU parties, and one additional member from the opposition FDP party. The parliamentary sub-committee has adopted this approach after discussing all the contentious issues of the planned migration reform: labour migration, protection of refugees for humanitarian reasons and integration.
The most contentious issue continues to be labour migration, an area where government and opposition parties have presented fundamentally different proposals. One sticky point in this context is the question of whether the general employment ban for non-German labour from non-EU countries is to be abolished, as planned by the red-green government coalition, which favours the introduction of a credit-based system of labour immigration. This credit system would allow inflows of labour migrants with or without employment contracts from non-EU countries.
With regard to other issues, however, government and opposition parties are very close to reaching a compromise, for example concerning the restriction of further inflows of Spätaussiedler (ethnic German immigrants), and the age limit up to which children are entitled to join their non-German parents living in Germany.
According to Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), the deputy parliamentary leader of the CDU, a compromise also seems feasible concerning the protection of refugees for humanitarian reasons. Representatives of the Greens in particular demand that victims of non-governmental and gender-specific persecution be granted protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention on Refugees. The opposition CDU/CSU parties, on the other hand, want to ensure that no additional groups of refugees are granted protection in Germany. Mr. Bosbach has argued that a "lack of protection" does not exist for victims or non-governmental persecution. However, he has conceded that a "lack of legal status" exists for asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected but who cannot be repatriated to their home countries "for the time being". Günther Beckstein (CSU), Bavaria's interior minister and member of the parliamentary sub-committee, has also expressed his willingness to resolve the issue of refugees who cannot be repatriated and have been granted a series of so-called "toleration certificates". According to Mr. Beckstein, these refugees should be granted an improved legal status after one or two years of residence in Germany.
Regarding the prospects of further negotiations in January, Wolfgang Bosbach has stated that, in view of the current status, "it makes sense to carry on with further talks". According to Dieter Wiefelspütz, the SPD interior policy spokesman, results have so far been mixed, but he has expressed his "cautious confidence" about reaching a compromise in the end. Similar to Wiefelspütz, the FDP expert for interior policy, Max Stadler, sees the possibility to reach an agreement in all crucial questions. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has expressed his optimism and "real hope" of reaching a compromise on migration reform in 2004. Representatives of the Greens however, have expressed caution, with Volker Beck, the parliamentary secretary of the Greens, emphasising that the eventual outcome "of negotiations continues to be completely open".
FTD 05.12.03 // SZ 05.12.03 // Welt 05.12.03 // FAZ 06.12.03 // FR 06.12.03 // Hamburger Abendblatt 06.12.03 // SZ 06.12.03 // FTD 08.12.03 // NZ 17.12.03
Public debate on headscarf ban for Muslim teachers continues
With Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg presenting the first state bills for banning Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves during work at public schools, leading politicians from all the major parties have expressed their views on the issue.
Marieluise Beck (Grüne), the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, has signed a public appeal entitled "religious plurality instead of forced emancipation", which rejects the headscarf ban. The appeal is supported by 70 prominent women working in politics, the arts and science. Among others, the appeal has been signed by Rita Süssmuth (CDU), the former president of the federal parliament, Barbara John (CDU), the former Berlin state commissioner for foreign resident affairs, Renate Künast (Greens), the federal minister for consumer affairs, and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a leading MP of the opposition FDP party. The appeal argues that the headscarf ban would reinforce feelings of social exclusion which are prevalent among many Muslim residents. The appeal also expresses concern that undemocratic Islamist organisations would attempt to take advantage of these sentiments to further their own agenda.
On the other hand, Antje Vollmer (Greens), the deputy speaker of the federal parliament, has justified the headscarf ban. She argues that headscarves have to be regarded as a symbol of the fundamentalist Islamist movement. In her view, "political demonstrations" of this kind are not admissible in public schools. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) also favours a headscarf ban for people who work on behalf of the state. However, both Mr. Schröder and Mrs. Vollmer have emphasised that they do not approve of imposing a headscarf ban on female Muslim students, too, as planned by the French government.
Johannes Rau, the Federal President, has argued for the "equal treatment of all religions". If headscarves are to be defined as a "religious symbol", the same applies to Christian symbols, according to Mr. Rau. Representatives of the opposition CDU/CSU parties have severely criticised Mr. Rau for his remarks: Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber (CSU) as well as Ingo Friedrich (CSU), deputy president of the European Parliament, and Christoph Böhr (CDU), chairman of the CDU commission on basic values, have stressed that headscarves should indeed be regarded as political symbols. Moreover, Stoiber has accused Mr. Rau of relinquishing "our own identity as a country with a Christian tradition". Leaders of the Catholic Church have also criticised Mr. Rau's remarks: While Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has emphasised that Christian symbols should not be banned from the public sphere, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter has branded headscarves as a "declaration of war" against the German constitution.
taz 02.12.03 // Welt 02.12.03 // Spiegel online 19.12.03 // Interview Bundeskanzler (Bild am Sonntag) 21.12.03 // Welt 22.12.03 // taz 29.12.03 // FR 30.12.03 // SZ / sueddeutsche.de 30.12.03 // FR 31.12.03 // FR 02.01.04
Upper Administrative Court allows appeal hearings on deportation of Metin Kaplan
The Upper Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster (North-Rhine Westphalia) has issued two rulings concerning the case of the fundamentalist Islamist leader Metin Kaplan.
In the first ruling, the court has rejected an appeal by Mr. Kaplan against an earlier decision by the Administrative Court in Cologne. The latter had decided to repeal Mr. Kaplan's entitlement to political asylum in Germany, stating that Mr. Kaplan poses a threat to Germany's national security: In addition, the court has has pointed that Mr. Kaplan had been sentenced to prison a sentence of more than three-years, which in itself automatically leads to a repeal of his asylum status.
In the second ruling, the OVG in Münster has admitted an appeal by the Federal Government against an earlier decision by the Administrative Court in Cologne (August 2003), which had ruled out the deportation of Mr. Kaplan to Turkey. The lower court had ruled out the deportation, stating that the Islamist leader, if he were deported to Turkey, would face a trial that would not be in accordance with the rule of law. In particular, Turkish authorities could use testimonies into which witnesses had been pressured by means of torture. According to the court in Cologne, a deportation would therefore violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges at the OVG have now given the go-ahead for further appeal hearings. The appeal hearings will have to deliberate on the question of whether and under what conditions an imminent violation of the European Convention on Human Rights rules out a deportation.
Otto Schily (SPD), the Federal Interior Minister, has welcomed the decision by the OVG, expressing confidence that the appeal hearings will eventually permit the deportation of Mr. Kaplan to Turkey, as demanded by the Federal Government (Ref. 8 A 3766/03.A; 8 A 3852/03.A)
Metin Kaplan is widely considered to be the founder of the Islamist organisation "Caliph State", which had been banned by the Federal Interior Ministry in December 2001. According to evidence compiled by the Federal Criminal Investigation Agency, the "Caliph State" organisation continues to be active underground. Police authorities have therefore carried out a large-scale raid in 13 federal states, searching private apartments and businesses of alleged supporters of the Islamist organisation. According to the Federal Interior Ministry, the raids have unearthed "large amounts of propaganda material".
Press statement BMI 04.12.03 // FR 05.12.03 // Welt 05.12.03 // Press statement BMI 12.12.03 // SZ 12.12.03
Upper Administrative Court rejects appeal for entitlement to Islamic religious instruction in North-Rhine Westphalia
The Upper Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster (North-Rhine Westphalia) has upheld an earlier ruling by a lower administrative court, rejecting a joint appeal by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Islamic Council, which have appealed for legal entitlements to Islamic religious instruction at public schools in North-Rhine Westphalia.
The OVG in Münster has ruled that such an entitlement cannot be justified by the Basic Law, Germany's federal constitution, neither by Art. 7 (3) , which classifies religious instruction as "part of the regular curriculum in state schools", nor by the constitutional principle of religious and ideological neutrality.
The court has rejected the appeal due to the fact that it has been submitted by two organisations which do not constitute religious denominations as such. Under German law, the members of religious denominations have to be "natural persons", whereas the complainants constitute umbrella organisations consisting of other Muslim organisations. The court has also pointed out that the two organisations do not exhibit all the legal characteristics of a religious denomination, especially because they are nor responsible for carrying out all the tasks related to every-day religious practice, which are performed by lower-level religious organisations. (Ref.: 19 A 997/02)
Press statement Justice Ministry North-Rhine Westphalia 02.12.03 // FR 03.12.03 // taz 03.12.03
Number of ethnic German immigrants has continued to decrease in 2003
The number of ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler) and accompanying family members who have been registered after entering Germany has fallen considerably in comparison to the previous year. In 2003, a total of 72.885 ethnic German immigrants has migrated to Germany, a decrease by 20% (- 18,531 people) over the previous year. Another ongoing trend is the shift in the composition of the migrant population: Only 20.26 % of immigrants have been recognised as ethnic Germans according to § 4 Federal Displaced Persons Act, with the remaining 79.74 % being accompanying family members. Under German law, ethnic German immigrants have to pass a German language test before entering Germany, whereas accompanying family members are under no such obligation. In most cases, the latter have no or little command of the German language. In 2002, the percentage of ethnic Germans amounted to 22 %, down from 24 % in 2001.
Similar to actual migration inflows of Spätaussiedler, the number of applications submitted by Spätaussiedler who want to migrate to Germany has also been falling. In 2003, only 46.443 people have submitted such an application, a decrease by 32 % over the previous years. Therefore, it is to be expected that migration inflows by Spätaussiedler will continue to decrease in future.
Jochen Welt (SPD), the Federal Commissioner for Spätaussiedler and National Minorities, has stated that the falling immigration figures are the result of the successful policy of the German government, which has been offering "efficient" help and support to ethnic Germans in their countries of residence and thus strengthened their commitment to stay in their home countries. Mr. Welt has also emphasised, that in particular adolescent ethnic German immigrants face increasing integration problems in Germany, as they come to Germany as accompanying family members with usually insufficient German language skills. Due to this fact, it would be vital, according to Mr. Welt, to pass the planned migration reform which, would also oblige accompanying family members to prove that they have a "sufficient command of the German language" before entering Germany.
Press statement BMI 30.12.03 // FR 31.12.03 // KAM-Info 21.01.04
Annual asylum figures for the year 2003: number of asylum seekers has reached lowest level since 1984
In 2003, a total of 50,563 people have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, the lowest annual figure since 1984. In comparison to 2002, asylum application figures have decreased by 28.9% (- 20,564 people). This downward trend in asylum applications also becomes obvious when figures are split up according to applicants' countries of origin: Application figures have been falling for nine of the ten main source countries, with the most significant decrease evident for asylum seekers from Afghanistan (- 46.9%) and Iraq (- 62.4%). Asylum seekers from China have been the only exception, with their number increasing by 37.3 % over the previous year.
In 2003, asylum seekers' main countries of origin were Turkey (6,301), Serbia and Montenegro (4,909), Iraq (3,850), the Russian Federation (3,383) and China (2,387). The other main source countries were Vietnam (2,096), Iran (2,049) India (1,736), Afghanistan (1,473) and Azerbaijan (1,291).
The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided the cases of 93,885 asylum seekers in 2003. 1,534 applicants (1.6 %) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum, and a further 1,602 applicants (1.7 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act (AuslG). The Federal Office has rejected the asylum petitions of 64,569 persons (68.8 %). The remaining 26,180 cases (27.9 %) have been closed for other reasons (for example when applicants have withdrawn their petitions or left the country).
Press statement BMI 16.01.04
In December 2003, the number of asylum petitions has continued to decrease, with 3,416 people submitting a petition for political asylum in Germany. This constitutes a decrease by 10.5 % (- 414 applicants) over November 2003, and by 27.2 % (- 1,278 people) over December 2002. In December 2003, applicants' main countries of origin continued to be Turkey (453), Serbia and Montenegro (375), the Russian Federation (225), Azerbaijan (136) and India (133).
The Nuremberg-based Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided the cases of 7,463 asylum seekers in December 2003. 102 applicants (1.4 %) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum, and further 103 applicants (1.4 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act (the so-called "small asylum"). The Federal Office has rejected the asylum petitions of 5,022 persons (67.3 %). The remaining cases (29.9 %) have been closed for other reasons (for example when applicants have withdrawn their petitions).
Press statement BMI 16.01.04
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