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efms Migration Report

February 2002

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EU action plan against illegal immigration

At an informal meeting in Spain, EU Justice and Interior Ministers have held talks on countermeasures against human trafficking and illegal immigration to the European Union. The talks focussed on harmonising national visa regulations, setting up a common EU visa registry, and harmonising national regulations on expelling illegal migrants. In addition, ministers discussed plans to improve border surveillance at EU-external borders and intensify co-operation between national police forces and criminal justice authorities. Ministers welcomed a legislative package proposed by the Spanish government, which currently holds the EU presidency. Even though no binding decisions were taken, the Spanish interior minister expressed his optimism that EU member states will pass the action plan before the six-month Spanish presidency expires.
SZ 14.02.02// FAZ 15.02.02 // SZ 15.02.02

Rising tension in debate on immigration reform

In view of Germany's rising unemployment figures, which rose to almost 4.3 million in January, tensions have been rising in the debate on immigration reform.

Parts of the governing Social Democrats (SPD) are now calling for "zero immigration" of migrants with low or average qualifications. Instead of allowing additional labour migration, party members demand increased efforts to further qualify residents that lack adequate qualifications. Chances for an all-party compromise have also been weakened by public statements of Mr. Stiegler, the deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary party, who had claimed that the predecessors of the CDU/CSU and FDP, the main opposition parties, were at least partly responsible for the National Socialists' rise to power in 1933. In their response to these allegations, the CDU and CSU made it clear that they would only return to the negotiating table if the SPD leadership apologised for Stiegler's comments. Eventually the planned all-party talks were called off.

Consequently there are opposing views on the chances of reaching a compromise on immigration reform before the federal parliamentary elections held in September. Whereas representatives of the Green party have expressed pessimistic views, parts of the SPD and FDP still deem a compromise feasible. Representatives of the CDU/CSU, on the other hand, have confirmed that they will not block an agreement, provided it is in accordance with their demands, as stated in their 16-point list of "non-negotiable" essentials.

In an effort to achieve a broad consensus in the Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament, which will pass a decision on immigration reform on March 1, the federal government has presented a re-drafted bill shortly before the parliamentary vote. The government bill tries to accommodate demands by the state government of Brandenburg (SPD-CDU coalition government), whose support is vital for passing the new immigration law in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament.

The alterations in the government bill comprise the following main points: The purpose of the new immigration law is no longer defined as just regulating, but also as limiting migration inflows. In addition, persons subject to non-governmental or gender-specific persecution will not be recognised as entitled to political asylum, but only as refugees under the Geneva Convention. As for labour migration, authorities are to base their decisions concerning work permits not only on the current situation on regional labour markets, but also on the overall state of the national labour market. Finally, the age up to which refugees' children are allowed to join their parents in Germany will be lowered to 12 years, allowing for exceptions if "children's well-being" is at stake or if integration prospects are positive.

CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, have criticised the bill, stating that their demands have only partly been fulfilled and that they will oppose the bill in the upcoming parliamentary vote. The PDS has also expressed reservations, making it unlikely that they will support the government bill in parliament. The FDP has announced that its MPs will abstain from voting. The strategy of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the governing SPD is to press for an agreement in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament representing the 16 German states. In order to gain a majority in the Bundesrat, the government depends on the support of the state government of Brandenburg (SPD-CDU coalition government). The federal government has stated that it will not use its option to set up a conference committee between the two houses of parliament if the bill does not win a majority in the Bundesrat, as further negotiations are unlikely to reach a compromise.
dpa 06.02.02 // FAZ 07.02.02 // NZ 08.02.02 // Welt am Sonntag 10.02.02 // Tagesspiegel 11.02.02 // Welt 13.02.02 // FAZ 16.02.02 // SZ 16.02.02 // Welt 18.02.02 // FAZ 20.02.02 // Welt 21.02.02 // SZ 25.02.02 // FAZ 27.02.02 // FR 27.02.02 // FAZ 28.02.02

"Green Card" for housekeepers

The Federal Ministry of the Interior has announced plans to pass a decree in order to support families with members in need of permanent nursing care. In future, these families will be allowed to hire citizens of EU accession states as housekeepers, on condition that these persons are not hired for working as nurses. Furthermore it has to be determined beforehand that no other applicants with prior entitlements (residents of Germany) can be found to fill the vacancy. Housekeepers' wages must not be lower than those paid to German employees. If these conditions are fulfilled, recruited labour migrants can be granted a residence allowance which is limited to three years.

When the decree was debated in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament representing the 16 German states, the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland and Hamburg voted against the proposals.
FR 01.02.2002 // Press Statement BMI 05.02.202

Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf declares screen searches partly illegal

Following court orders in Berlin and Hesse to suspend screen searches (for terrorist suspects), the higher regional court in Düsseldorf (North-Rhine Westphalia) has also criticised this investigation method. In its ruling, the court has emphasised that screen searches are admissible for persons of Arabic origin or Muslim faith, but has also stressed that it would be "excessive" and illegal to include German citizens. In its reaction, the Interior Ministry of North Rhine Westphalia has stated that the ruling, the restrictions imposed by the court notwithstanding, has "generally confirmed" the state's approach to criminal investigation.

Two further court rulings have reduced prospects for a common legal basis shared by all German states. Whereas the higher regional court in Frankfurt has confirmed an earlier ruling by the regional court in Wiesbaden declaring screen searches illegal in Hesse, the administrative court in Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate) has unconditionally supported them.

Meanwhile, the interior ministers of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt have called for harmonising state regulations on screen searches, as the lack of a common legal basis puts the success of criminal investigations against suspected Islamic terrorists at risk.
SZ 09.0202 // Press Statement Interior Ministry NRW 12.02.02 // Welt 12.02.02 // SZ 13.02.02 // SZ 19.02.02 // FR 22.02.02

Central Council of Muslims approves "Islamic Charter" on German constitution

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), an umbrella organisation of 19 Islamic groups, has approved a declaration on the relationship between Muslims and the German state and society. In the declaration, which is entitled "Islamic Charter", the ZMD expresses its support for Germany's democratic order, its constitution and human rights.

Simultaneously, the council has also stated the following demands: It calls for the introduction of Islamic religious education at German schools (in German), and university degree courses for Islamic religious instructors and muezzins. In addition, public acceptance of Muslim traditions should be expanded, for example by allowing muezzins to use public address systems when calling to prayer, or by showing greater respect for Islamic clothing regulations.

The declaration constitutes the ZMD's response to numerous calls in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11 for a dialogue between Germany's majority population and its Muslim minority.

Public reaction to the Islamic Charter has been mixed. Politicians and the main Christian churches have welcomed the declaration principally, but have also criticised it for not being far-reaching enough. For example, it has been criticised that the declaration does not distance itself clearly from the ancient Islamic law of the Sharia. Similarly, the organisation "Türkische Gemeinde" (Turkish community, one of the largest organisations of migrants in Germany, with more than 200 member groups) has criticised that the declaration does not say anything on equal opportunities for men and women.
Spiegel 20.02.02 // NZ 21.02.02 // FR 22.02.02 // Welt 26.02.02 // FR 27.02.02 // Welt 28.02.02

Asylum statistics

5,771 persons submitted petitions for political asylum in Germany in February 2002, a decrease by 25.7% (or 1,991 persons) over the previous month. Compared to February 2001, applications have decreased by 449 (-7,2%), the lowest level for any February since 1987.

The decrease is mainly due to the significantly lower number of applicants from Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan. The main countries of origin continue to be Iraq, Turkey and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, followed by the Russian Federation and Afghanistan.

The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on 11,859 asylum applications. 2.2% of applicants have been recognised as entitled to political asylum, and a further 5.1% are protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Aliens Act. 61.3% of applications have been rejected.
Press Statement BMI 08.03.02

February 2002

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