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efms Migration Report

February 2003

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EU-Commission presents draft guideline on labour migration

The EU-Commission has presented its proposals for an EU guideline on entry and residence regulations for third-country labour migrants, the emphasis being on further opening European labour markets. In the draft, Antonio Vitorino, the EU Commissioner for Interior Affairs, proposes that each job vacancy which cannot not be filled by an EU national within four weeks should be opened to applicants from non-EU countries. However, member states will be entitled to place national restrictions on inflows of labour migrants, according to the current situation on their national labour markets.

Nevertheless, a majority of members of the European Parliament has criticised the guideline as too restrictive. Even though the European Parliament has no direct say in the matter, a majority of MEPs has voted for the following alterations, effectively outvoting MEPs representing the conservative European People's Party (EPP): the majority of MEPs has voted against granting member states the possibility to restrict inflows of labour migrants; in addition, the European Parliament has voted for shortening respective waiting periods from four to three weeks.

Members of the EPP parliamentary party, on the other hand, have rejected the draft guideline by the EU-Commission as well as the resolution by the European Parliament as "excessive". Hartmut Nassauer, the German spokesman of the EPP parliamentary party, has branded the three-week waiting period as "completely unrealistic", pointing to the fact that it takes ten weeks on average to fill a job vacancy in Germany. Hartmut Koschyk (CSU), spokesman of the conservative parties in the German parliament, has rejected the proposals by the EU-Commission and the European Parliament outright, expressing the fear that German immigration law could be made obsolete by EU regulations.
Welt 10.03.03 // dpa 12.02.03 // Das Parlament 17.09.03

EU Interior Ministers reach consensus on age limits in family migration

After years of debate, EU interior ministers have reached a consensus concerning family migration of third-country nationals. Under the proposals, EU member states will be entitled to impose an age limit of twelve years on children joining their parents in an EU member state. Originally, the EU-Commission has proposed an age limit of 15 years. Furthermore, ministers have agreed on regulations against the abuse of family migration entitlements by means of fictitious marriages. Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister, has expressed his satisfaction with the results, emphasising that the German government has accomplished its main aims.

On the other hand, interior ministers have been unable to reach an agreement on common minimum standards for protecting refugees. Whereas most ministers have accepted proposals by the EU-Commission, according to which protection is to be extended to refugees that have been subject to non-governmental and gender-specific persecution, the German interior minister, together with his Danish counterpart Bertel Haarder, continue to reject these proposals. Currently, 13 of 15 EU member states have already implemented respective proposals in national migration law.

In the run-up to the meeting of the EU Council of Ministers, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on the German government to give up its opposition against a harmonisation of EU asylum law. Stefan Berglund, the UNHCR representative in Germany, has emphasised that harmonisation can only be achieved if Germany "moves towards Europe".
dpa 27.02.03 // FAZ 27.02.03 // FAZ 28.02.03 //SZ 28.02.03 // taz 28.02.03

Bilateral re-admission agreement signed by Germany and Slovakia

After reaching similar agreements with Yugoslavia and Albania in 2002, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has now also signed a bi-lateral re-admission agreement with Slovakia. Under the agreement, Germany will be entitled to send the following groups of migrants back to Slovakia: nationals of Slovakia who have migrated to Germany without having a legal residence status, and third-country nationals and stateless persons that have entered Germany illegally via Slovakian territory, or are in possession of a Slovakian residence title or visa. According to Mr. Schily, the agreement "constitutes a significant step towards tackling uncontrolled migration", as Slovakia has developed into one of the main transit countries for illegal migrants, especially from Asia.
Press Statement BMI 19.02.03 // dpa 19.02.03

Opposition Union parties up the ante in migration debate

In the run-up to the parliamentary vote on the new migration law in the Bundesrat (the upper house of the German parliament representing state governments), the opposition Union parties (CDU/CSU) have raised the ante for a compromise with the red-green government coalition. Urged by Bavarian CSU representatives, the interior policy committee of the Bundesrat (with its CDU/CSU majority) has passed a comprehensive list of more than 130 amendments to the government migration bill, adding numerous new demands to the original position paper of the Union parties.

The CDU/CSU proposals comprise the following main points: the age limit in family migration for children joining their parents in Germany is to be lowered to 10 years; foreign nationals who are already residents of Germany are to be included in integration programmes; non-governmental and gender-specific persecution does not entitle to political asylum; severe restrictions are to be imposed on labour migration. Furthermore, CDU/CSU demand that the Nationality Act, which was passed in 1999, be repealed at least partially: Children of foreign residents are only to be granted German citizenship at birth if at least one of their parents has been born in Germany, too. Under current nationality law, it is sufficient for non-German parents to have lived in Germany for at least eight years and to have been in possession of an unlimited residence permit for at least three years.

Charitable organisation, human rights groups, legal associations as well as the Turkish Community in Germany have rejected the CDU/CSU proposals as a U-turn in migration policy. FDP representatives in Baden-Wurttemberg have also rejected the proposed restrictions, announcing that representatives of the state in the Bundesrat will abstain in the vote on the amendments proposed by the CDU/CSU.
FR 03.02.03 // taz 03.02.03 // taz 06.02.03 // Welt am Sonntag 09.02.03 // FR 13.02.03 // FR 14.02.03 // SZ 14.02.03

Bundesrat calls on Federal Government to revise migration bill

Urged by the FDP, the eight CDU/CSU-led state governments have refrained from introducing their proposals for restrictive amendments to the government migration bill during the recent session of the Bundesrat (the upper house of the German parliament representing state governments). Instead, the Bundesrat has passed a resolution calling on the red-green government coalition to subject the bill to a comprehensive revision in order "to reach a consensus which is supported by a broad parliamentary majority".

In the Bundesrat session, SPD representatives expressed their confidence that it would be possible to reach a compromise with the opposition parties in the parliamentary conciliation committee. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has hinted that the government coalition is willing to make concessions "as long as essential features of the bill are preserved". The Greens, the junior partner in the federal government coalition, have passed a resolution at a party conference in Berlin, which expresses their willingness to compromise, provided that possible amendments constitute improvements on current migration law. However, in view of the far-reaching demands by the opposition CDU/CSU parties, the Greens have not ruled out that the entire legislative project might fail.

Within the Union parties, CDU and CSU were unable to reach agreements on all details of the planned legislation. On the one hand, Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber (CSU) has stated that the chances of reaching a compromise with the red-green government coalition are diminishing, expressing his preference for a "small solution", i.e. minor legislative amendments concerning integration law, age limits for family migration and exchange programmes for scientists. On the other hand, Saarland premier Peter Mueller (CDU) has expressed his confidence that a comprehensive compromise is still feasible, limiting Union demands to four main points: (1) The migration law must aim at effectively regulating and limiting immigration; (2) labour migration will be regulated according to labour market demands; (3) asylum entitlements are not to exceed the provisions of the Geneva Convention on Refugees; (4) integration programmes are to include foreign nationals who are already residents of Germany.

In the meantime the CSU, and also some representatives of the CDU, have criticised Mr. Mueller's proposals as insufficient. Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), deputy leader of the Union parliamentary party, for example, has emphasised that his party will insist on its comprehensive list of amendments to the government migration bill, even though they have not yet been voted on in the Bundesrat. In a similar vein, Günter Beckstein (CSU), the Bavarian Minister of the Interior, has confirmed the restrictive line of his party, rejecting all proposals for lifting the general recruitment ban for third-country labour migrants. The FDP, finally, has rejected these restrictive proposals, re-affirming its role as mediator between the government and the opposition Union parties.
BZ 14.02.03 // FAZ 14.02.03 // FR 15.02.03 // dpa 16.02.03 // Parlament 17.02.03 // SZ 17.02.03 // dpa 19.02.03 // SZ 20.02.03 // Welt 20.02.03 // dpa 23.02.03 // dpa 24.02 03 // FAZ 24.02.03 // SZ 24.02.03 // Welt 24.02.03 // NN 28.02.03

Court rules on revocation of residence permit after repeal of asylum entitlement

The Federal Administrative Court has repealed a decision by local authorities in Mannheim. The local authority for foreign residents there had revoked the unlimited residence permit of an Albanian national who had been recognised as entitled to political asylum, following a decision by the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees to revoke his asylum status due to the political changes occurring in Albania since 1994. Local authorities in Mannheim argued that the 44-year old Albanian national, who had been granted asylum in Germany in 1990 as a so-called "embassy refugee", had committed several criminal offences between 1991 and 1998, revoking his residence permit in 1999 and expelling him from Germany in the following year.

The Leipzig-based Federal Administrative Court has ruled that local authorities are indeed entitled to take discretionary decisions in cases where entitlements to political asylum have been repealed, even in cases where the foreign national concerned fulfils, as in the case mentioned above, the criteria for being granted a residence entitlement. However, local authorities are still obliged to deliberate carefully not only on the public interest in ending the residence status of the foreign national, but also on the "legally protected interests" of the foreign resident.

Consequently, the court did not consider it sufficient for local authorities in Mannheim, in their decision to revoke the residence permit, to only refer to the criminal offences of the person concerned; in addition, authorities would also have been obliged to review whether this person is likely to pose a future threat to society, as well as take into consideration his responsibility for his illegitimate daughter, who also lives in Germany. On account of the court ruling, local authorities have to review the case and decide anew on whether to repeal the residence permit of the Albanian national. (BVerwG 1 C 13.02)
Press Statement Federal Administrative Court 20.02.03 // dpa 20.02.03

Asylum statistics

The downward trend in asylum application figures has continued. In February 2003, the number of persons submitting a petition for political asylum in Germany has fallen to 4,486 persons, a decrease by 26.7% (1,638 persons) over the previous month. Compared to February 2002, respective figures have fallen by 22.3% (1,258 persons).

In February 2003, asylum applicants' main countries of origin were Turkey (585), Iraq (502), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (411), China (214) and the Russian Federation (208). One striking fact is that the number of applicants with Iraqi citizenship has been fluctuating considerably recently: Whereas 616 Iraqi nationals applied for political asylum in Germany in December 2002, respective figures rose to 1,022 in January 2003, only to fall to less than half that number in February (502 applicants).

The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided cases of 9,015 persons in February 2003. 189 applicants (2.1%) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. An additional 253 applicants (2.8%) have been recognised as protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Aliens Act ("semi-asylum status"). The applications of 6,362 persons (70.6%) have been rejected; among them, 117 persons are also protected because other obstacles to deportation have been recognised according to §53 Foreigners Act. The remainder of cases have been closed for other reasons.
Press statement BMI 06.03.03

February 2003

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