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efms Migration Report

February 1997

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Bosnian refugees: dispute over repatriation continues

The German policy on Bosnian refugees is controversial both in Germany and abroad. Subsequent to a fact-finding trip to Bosnia, the interior ministers of three Länder have expressed their conviction that repatriation is "possible and sensible". The Bosnian minister of refugees, on the other hand, contends that Bosnia is not able to receive the planned number of 100,000 refugees; he criticizes furthermore that the refugees are generally being returned to areas under the control of their ethnic groups, and not to the areas of origin, with the result that ethnic boundaries are being more deeply entrenched. The Bundestag Innenausschuß (committee on domestic affairs) and the UNHCR criticize the repatriation plans as being unrealistic. The German government charges that the European Union has failed to provide adequate assistance in repatriating the Bosnians. At an informal meeting of the interior and justice ministers of the CDU, dissatisfaction was voiced that funds pledged for assisting voluntary returnees and recontruction had not materialized. Germany feels it has been forced to shoulder the main burden of the refugees alone.In the past year some 15,000 refugees voluntarily returned to Bosnia from Germany.
dpa 6.2.97 // Spiegel 10.2.97 // SZ 21.2.97 // FAZ 24.2.97 // FAZ 26.2.97 // FR 26.2.97

Debate on new visa requirements for children of foreigners

The new ordinance on residence rights for foreign children, which was introduced in January as an urgent measure by Federal Minister of the Interior Kanther, has sparked heated debate and protests. The reason given for requiring visas of children from former countries of recruitment is the frequent abuse of visa-free entry in order to smuggle children into Germany illegally. Despite massive criticism from the European Parliament, the German government intends to uphold the visa regulations. The ordinance must be approved by the Bundesrat by mid-April. SPD and FDU parties view visa requirements as justified, but favor unlimited residence permits and a general facilitation of naturalization. Foreigner pressure groups have launched nation-wide protest demonstrations and school strikes in criticism of the proposed changes on grounds that they will exacerbate the situation of hundreds of thousands of foreign children living in Germany, many of whom were born here, and thus impede integration.
FAZ 12.2.97 // dpa 20.2.97 // FR 22.2.97 // Welt 22.2.97 // taz 27.2.97

International police cooperation intensified

The Federal Republic aims to combat border-crossing criminality more effectively on the basis of bilateral agreements with neighboring countries. Such agreements already exist with Luxemburg, France, Poland and the Netherlands, while an agreement with the Czech Republic is soon to be concluded. Investigations are to be carried out with the Länder police, the Federal Border Control, Customs and the authorities of neighboring countries cooperating directly with one another. The aim is to compensate for the loss in security incurred by reducing controls at the interior borders, especially of the Schengen member states. The disbanding of the Bavarian border police has been postponed until the end of October 1997 at the earliest, because Austria and Italy are encountering difficulties in implementing comprehensive controls at their outer borders. A number of the officials who will then become available are to be employed in surveillance operations in border areas.
FAZ 8.2.97 // FR 6.2.97 // SZ 15.2.97

CDU member of Parliament calls for action against illegal immigration

The spokesman of the CDU parliamentary group, Erwin Marschewski, has presented a ten-point program to prevent illegal immigration to Germany. Asylum statistics, in Marschewski"s opinion, demonstrate that German asylum laws continue to be abused for the purpose of illegal immigration. His proposed measures include: increasing the presence of the border control forces at the German eastern borders by about 1,500 officials; providing an "asylum card" for asylum seekers which contains all data relevant for purposes of identification and legal procedures as well as social security benefits; keeping police records on civil-war refugees (for identification purposes); carrying out deportations in a more consistent way and having them paid, if possible, by the deportees themselves. According to experts, several of these demands are already common practice.
FAZ 15.2.97 // FR 15.2.97

Fewer asylum appeals brought before the Federal Administrative Court

The number of asylum cases at the Federal Administrative Court decreased in 1996 by more than 20% to 846 cases. Asylum appeals, however, continue to make up the largest group of cases dealt with at the Federal Administrative Court. According to the president of the court, Franßen, it is not possible to predict whether or not the downward trend will continue. There are still a large number of asylum cases pending at the administrative courts.
Welt 20.2.97 // SZ 20.2.97

Residence rights for Russian deserters

The government coalition in Bonn has announced that 600 members of the Russian military forces formerly stationed in Eastern Germany are to receive residence permits according to §32 of the Aliens Law. Most of the deserters had applied for political asylum, but the prospect of punishment for desertion is not considered grounds for asylum. Several officers had been interrogated by western intelligence services and now face 20 years imprisonment in Russia and other former Soviet states. The final decision on the status of these Russian military members, however, rests with the Länder.
Welt 27.2.97 // SZ 26.2.97 // NZZ 26.2.97

Central Council of Sinti and Roma lodges complaint at EU commission

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma has submitted a formal complaint at the European Commission on Human Rights against what they see as a racist verdict made by the district court of Bochum. In its decision of September 1996 the court ruled that a landlord had the right to reject a "gypsy" as a prospective tenant because this group did not, on the average, make suitable tenants due to their traditional non-sedentary living habits. The council hopes to have the decision rescinded, as such statements encourage discrimination against gypsies. In the name of his Bochum colleagues, the President of the German Judges Association, Rainer Voss, has apologized to the Sinti and Roma, particularly for the use of the term "gypsy".
taz 21.2.97 // Welt 21.2.97

Arrest orders for foreigners in hiding not permissible

The Oberlandesgericht (district court) of Frankfurt has ruled that there is no legal basis for arrest warrants for foreigners who have gone into hiding to avoid deportation. According to a ruling of the Federal Court of the Constitution, those threatened with deportation detention have the right to a hearing. When a hearing is not possible because the concerned person has gone into hiding, a temporary detention of up to six weeks may be awarded.
SZ 27.2.97 // FR 1.3.97

Karlsruhe rejects complaints on voting rights for EU foreigners

The Federal Court of the Constitution has rejected the appeals of two German citizens concerning EU foreigners" right to vote in local-government elections. The plaintiffs had criticized supposed preferential treatment of "union citizens" in local government elections in Hessen and Baden-Württemberg. The court decided, however, in both cases that the plaintiffs were not being adversely affected in the exercise of their basic rights.
dpa 27.2.97

Statistics: illegal immigration

According to data from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the number of persons illegally entering Germany fell by 8.7% in 1996. A total of 27,024 persons attempting to cross the border without permits were apprehended. In the previous year the number was 29,604. Most of the 21,976 arrests took place at the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic. Inspite of the slight decrease, Federal Minister of the Interior, Kanther, still considers illegal immigration to be very high, especially as it is organized by immigrant-smuggler gangs. The border protection authorities investigated 7,364 cases of foreigners illegally brought into Germany (1,200 of whom were from ex-Yugoslavia) and 2,215 immigrant smugglers (of whom 18.7% were Czech citizens).
dpa 25.2.97 // SZ 26.2.97

Aussiedler statistics

According to a report of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 14, 924 Aussiedler (ethnic German immigrants from Eastern Europe) were registered in January 1997, of whom 14, 728 were from the former Soviet Union. In January 1996 there had been over 17,000 Aussiedler. There was also a distinct drop in the number of applications for immigration in January 1997 with numbers falling from over 22,000 the previous year to 13,289. In February 1997 the number of Aussiedler reached its lowest point since 1988 with 9,231 new entries. In comparison to February of the previous year, almost 20% fewer people came to Germany. The number of applications for admission dropped by 18% to 13,500. According to the Commissioner for Aussiedler, Waffenschmidt (CDU), one reason for the decrease is German assistance in the affected areas of the Russian Federation. Moreover, many of the applicants fail the obligatory German language test which has been a requirement for immigration since last year.
SZ 3.2.97 // dpa 2.3.97

Asylum statistics

In February 1997 8,700 asylum petitions were filed, which was 2,177 or 20% fewer than in January. Compared to February 1996, the reduction was 6.4%. Most asylum seekers came from Turkey (1,797), Irak (1,326) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1,018). Rulings were made in 15,000 cases with an acceptance rate of 5.8% (865 cases). A further 6.5% (976 persons) received protection from expulsion.

Federal Interior Minister Kanther considers the admission numbers to be too high and calls on the länder to carry out deportation more forcefully. At a visit of the Nürnberg Federal Office in its new headquarters, he deplored the fact that Germany, with 60% of all asylum seekers, continues to bear the heaviest burden in the European Union.
dpa 5.3.97 // Welt 6.3.97

February 1997

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