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efms Migration Report

December 2008

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EU Commission reattempts to strengthen the rights of asylum applicants

On 3 December 2008, the Commission of the European Union (EU) presented the first concrete proposals to amend the EU asylum law. The Commission takes thus the first steps towards the implementation of the European asylum strategy of 18 June 2008 and of the European Immigration and Asylum Pact adopted on 16 October 2008. The proposals are intended to guarantee all asylum applicants a fair and equal treatment throughout the EU, which is at the same time to improve the status of asylum applicants. In the Commission"s proposal it is for example foreseen to reduce the employment ban for asylum applicants to six months. In Germany, the persons affected so far have normally no access to the labour market for a period of at least one year. Moreover, the EU Commission wants the financial benefits granted to asylum seekers in future to be oriented to the level of social welfare benefits and thus be increased, the standards for the reception facilities to be improved and the needs of particularly vulnerable groups such as disabled persons, persons suffering from psychic illnesses or traumatised refugees to be taken more into consideration. Moreover, it is intended to revise the Dublin II regulation. Now, the proposals need to be examined by the Council of the European Union. Refugee relief organisation are little optimistic, however, that the Commission"s initiative will succeed. Karl Kopp, spokesman on European affairs of Pro-Asyl, said for instance that even though the planned new provisions were quite far-reaching, he expected them to be "negotiated to death" at the Council as it had happened in 2003 already. In contrast, the spokesman for internal affairs of the European People"s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber (CSU), criticised the Commission"s approach saying that Brussels would limit the possibilities of the Member States where he wished to find more flexibility rather than regulations.
Focus 01.12.08 // Press release of the EU 03.12.08 // Epoch Times Deutschland online 03.12.08// taz 04.12.08

ECJ: Use of the central register of foreign nationals partly unlawful

On 16 December 2008, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that the use of data from the German central register of foreign nationals for statistical purposes and for fighting crimes is contrary to Community law. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which is responsible for maintaining that register, collects specific personal data of foreign nationals that stay on the German territory for a period of more than three months. In particular, the register is used to assist public authorities who have the duty of implementing the legislation concerning the law relating to foreign nationals as well as for statistical purposes and for the prosecution of criminals. According the ECJ, the latter fields of use are not compatible with the law: on the one hand, the collection and storage of data on identifiable persons for statistical purposes is contrary to stipulations of the Directive on the protection of personal data, the Data Protection Directive. On the other hand, the use of the register for the purpose of fighting crime is contrary to the principle of non-discrimination. Since the register does not contain data on all citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, a prosecution of crimes irrespective of the citizenship of their perpetrators would not be possible, according the Luxemburg-based judges.
Press release of ECJ of 16.12.08 // FR 17.12.08

Switzerland joins Schengen area

On 12 December 2008, Switzerland became a new member of the Schengen area. This means that the former passport controls at the national borders will be replaced by mobile controls throughout border districts. The passport controls in air traffic will be lifted not before March 2009, however. Since Switzerland is not an EU Member State, the traffic of goods will also in future be subject to controls. On the occasion of joining the Schengen area, the EU Ambassador to Switzerland, Michael Reiterer, stressed that the country now needed to guarantee the freedom of movement of the citizens of all EU Member States. This would apply also to the new Member States of Bulgaria and Romania. In case restrictions were adopted in the Swiss referendum about the freedom of movement provisions planned to be held on 8 February 2009, the "guillotine clause" would automatically be applied and thus other bilateral agreements would become invalid. With this clause, normally the adoption of a package of treaties is linked and made subject to the adoption of all individual treaties it contains. If just one of the treaties is not adopted or revoked at a later point in time by one of the parties, all treaties are automatically considered as not being adopted or revoked.
Press release of EU Commission 12.12.08 // ddp 12.12.08 // Focus online 14.12.08

Upon signing of re-admission agreement, 7,000 Syrians threatened by deportation

As a consequence of a re-admission agreement entered into between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Arabic Republic of Syria, 7,000 Syrian refugees as well as some stateless persons and third country nationals tolerated in Germany could soon be deported. The re-admission agreement already signed in July by Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) and his Syrian counterpart, Bassam Abdelmajid, regulates the reciprocity of the requirements for the re-admission of persons obliged to leave the territory of a state by the respective other party to the agreement. In the past, the return of Syrian refugees not recognised as refugees could hardly be implemented as the Syrian government was not willing to re-admit such citizens. But also stateless persons or third country nationals possessing a residence title or a visa for the Arabic republic may be deported as of 3 January 2009, the date on which the agreement enters into force. Refugee relief organisations sharply criticised the possible deportations. According to a common statement, deportations to Syria were said to be irresponsible since Syria is a torture state in which fundamental human rights are not respected and any kind of political opposition would be brutally suppressed. Schäuble rejected the reproaches saying that the re-admission agreement would apply only for those persons whose duty to leave the country had been determined in a constitutional legal proceeding.
taz 05.12.08

Attack on Passau"s chief of police fuels debate on right-wing extremism

Following a knife attack on 13 December 2008, which almost killed the chief of the police of Passau, Alois Mannichl, politics and the public have re-entered an intensified discussion on the measures that could be taken to fight right-wing extremism in Germany. Even though the police investigates against persons unknown, Mannichls description of the perpetrators points towards the right-wing extremist scene: the attacker, for instance, was bald-headed and stabbed him saying "with greetings from the national resistance". Now, a new discussion on a proceeding intended to prohibit the NPD party has started. Besides the Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer (CSU), also his counterpart from Thuringa, Dieter Althaus (CDU) as well as Berlin"s Senator of the Interior, Erhart Körting (SPD), pronounced themselves in favour of an active encountering of the NPD party by the state. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) and the SPD candidate for the post of the chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in contrast said that new prohibition proceedings at the Federal Administrative Court should be opened only in case it was likely to succeed. A prohibition proceeding had failed in 2003 already. At the same time, Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, demanded a stricter observation of right-wing extremist groups. He added that it were rather groups such as the neo-Nazi comradeships and the "National Resistance" rather than the NPD party that constituted the main threat. As part of the debate, the internet as a "platform for radicalisation" was said to be increasingly significant for the fight against right-wing extremism. Well-known sites would be used to stir up hate. Already before the attack on Mannichl, the chief of the police - who had taken most recently several actions against right-wing extremists - was subject to incitements to hate for instance on a web site of the district association of the NPD, said Bruni Mayer, Head of the Rottal-Inn district administration.
FR 15.12.08 // FR 16.12.08 // Die Welt 17.12.08 // Die Welt 18.12.08 // BZ 22.12.08 // SZ 23.12.08

Agreement on legal elements of the preparation of terrorist acts of violence as an offence

On 19 December 2008, the Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries (SPD) and Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) agreed on a draft bill according to which certain forms of preparing "severe acts of violence endangering the constitution" will be subject to penalties. In future, the stay in an Islamist training camp will be punished with prison terms of between six months and ten years, if such stay is intended to carry out terrorist acts of violence. Establishing and maintaining relations to a terrorist organisation with the same purpose might in future be punished with a fine or a prison term of up to three years. Moreover, the new legal elements of an offence are to be combined with provisions governing the residence rights, which will allow to expel a foreign national who prepares a terrorist attack or to issue a refusal of entry upon him or her.
Press release of the Ministry of Justice (BMJ) 19.12.08 // Die Welt 20.12.08

Reform of integration courses is having effect

According to the progress report of the National Integration Plan of the Federal Government, the reforms to improve the integration courses of 2007 have already proved to be successful. The integration courses introduced in January 2005 within the framework of the Immigration Act are to support third country nationals living in Germany on a lasting basis in their integration into the German society. After an expertise commissioned by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 2006 revealed some quality deficiencies, various reform measures such as the increase of the number instruction lessons were implemented in 2007. Since then, the share of course participants who have attended the courses and taken the final exam foreseen has risen from 65 per cent in 2007 to 87 per cent in 2008, according to the report.
Deutscher Bundestag (Federal Bundestag) online 22.12.08

Debate on "Basic Law to be amended by German language provision "

With a vast majority and against the will of the heads of party, the delegates of the CDU decided on their party conference on 2 December 2008 to establish German as national language of Germany as an integral part of the Basic Law. The deputy chairman of the Junge Union (youth organisation of the CDU) on federal level, Dorothee Bär, said it would be self-evident that the German language needed to be given particular protection by the Basic Law. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) regretted the decision of her party and warned of an "inflationary" introduction of new constitutional contents to the Basic Law. The CSU, SPD and opposition parties widely rejected the approach of the CDU. The candidate of the SPD for the elections to the Federal President, Gesine Schwan, accused the CDU of "continuing its aversive policy against immigrants". In contrast, Hartmut Koschyk, Parliamentary Secretary of the parliamentarian group of the CSU in the federal Bundestag, pronounced himself in favour of the CDU saying that the language as a core element of German identity would also be the key to a successful integration of immigrants. In reply, the chairman of the Green party, Cem Özdemir, said that no child would better learn German as a consequence of amending the Basic Law correspondingly and added that the German language could be only strengthened by promoting education. Rupert Scholz, expert in constitutional law, meanwhile explained that embedding the German language in the Basic Law would be only of declamatory nature and had no legal impact.
Die Welt 03.12.08 // Die Welt 04.12.08 // taz 05.12.08

Turkish migrant awarded as "social entrepreneur of the year"

On 16 December 2008, the social scientist and medical sociologist of Turkish origin Ramazan Salman was awarded the prize of "Social Entrepreneur 2008" for the successful establishment of the"Ethno-Medizinisches Zentrums e.V." (ethno-medical centre). Under the auspices of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, the prize is awarded annually by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to founders of organisations that implement innovative, sustainable and practical solutions for problems in all kind of areas. Salmans activities are aimed at improving the integration of migrants into the German society. His largest project, "MiMi - mit Migranten für Migranten" (by migrants, for migrants) meanwhile has been established at 38 locations throughout Germany. Within the framework of the project, 500 migrants have been trained so far to work as "health care guides" who try for instance to help their compatriots to overcome their fear of visiting a doctor or to inform about health care prevention possibilities. On the occasion of the prize awarding ceremony, Federal Integration Commissioner Maria Böhmer (CDU) -patroness of the MiMi project - said she was very proud of Salman"s work. Civil dedication and self-commitment were core elements of integration, said Böhmer.
Bundesregierung (Federal Government) online 15.12.08 // www.bü

Survey: Migrants are not "non-readers"

The simple and wide-spread assumption existing since the debate on Pisa studies according to which migrants would hardly read is now countered with a new representative survey titled "Lesen in Deutschland 2008" (reading in Germany) implemented by the Stiftung Lesen (reading foundation): according to the survey, the average reading habits of persons with a migration background corresponds to the average of the society as a whole. Accordingly, 36 per cent of the migrants said to read a book once or several times a week (average population: 36 per cent), 11 per cent said to read even every day (average population: 8 per cent). Andreas Storm, Parliamentary State-Secretary for Education and Research, concluded the outcome revealing that German-speaking migrants formed a new "reading middle-class" bore great potential in terms of the education policy. Its members would be important multiplicators able to reach social groups distant to education.
Press release of Stiftung Lesen 04.12.08 // FR 05.12.08

Asylum statistics

In December 2008, a total of 1,545 persons have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, which is an decrease by 10.7 per cent (-185 applicants) over November 2008. Compared to December 2007, the number of asylum applicants has increased by 22.1 per cent (+ 280 applicants). The main countries of origin in December were Iraq (397), Afghanistan (95), Vietnam (91) and Turkey (88) followed by Iran (76). In December, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 1,784 asylum applications. A total of 689 persons (38.6 per cent) were recognised as refugees under the Geneva Refugee Convention. These included 19 persons (1.1 per cent) who were recognised as entitled to asylum under Art. 16a of the German Basic Law, and 670 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 580 persons (32.5 per cent) were rejected. The cases of a further 441 persons (24.7 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 13.01.09

December 2008

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