efms Migration Report
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Agreement: Immigration act to take effect on January 1, 2005
Following several years of debate and controversy between the red-green government coalition and the CDU/CSU opposition parties, an all-party compromise on immigration reform has finally been reached. Both houses of the federal parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, have passed the immigration bill, in a compromise resulting from lengthy and contentious negotiations. In effect, the new immigration act can take effect on January 1, 2005.
Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has called the agreement a "historic moment of change", as Germany for the first time officially admits to being a country of immigration. Representatives of the opposition CDU/CSU parties have expressed the hope that the new law will channel and restrict migration inflows effectively, and have expressed satisfaction with the fact that the bill had been amended to take national-security concerns of the opposition into consideration. Spokespersons of the FDP opposition party as well as business representatives have underlined their demands for a more flexible approach towards labour-market migration to Germany. Representatives on the Greens, on the other hand, have expressed their satisfaction with the extended protection granted to refugees, but have also repeated demands that hardship commissions for refugees should be set up everywhere in Germany. Marieluise Beck, the federal-government commissioner for integration, has called on all parties to resolve open questions concerning the administrative implementation of the law as quickly as possible. In addition, she has called on all parties to refrain from taking advantage of administrative discretion in order to further their own political agenda.
The Nuremberg-based Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees (BAFl) will in future officially be called "Federal Office for Migration and Refugees" and is being re-organised into a centre combining all main responsibilities for migration and integration.
Financial Times Deutschland 01.07.04 // SZ 02.07.04 // FAZ 02.07.04 // BZ 05.07.04 // FR 09.07.04 // NN 09.07.04 // SZ 10.07.04 // FAZ 10.07.04
Key features of the new immigration act
The following is a summary of key features of the new immigration act, which is to take effect as of January 1, 2005. More detailed information on the reform as well as the full text of the law itself can be found on the homepage of the Federal Ministry of the Interior ( www.bmi.bund.de)
The number of residence titles will be reduced to two, the limited residence permit, on the one hand, and the unlimited settlement permit, on the other hand. The new residence legislation is no longer based on residence titles, but on purposes of residence. The so-called "toleration certificates", which offer subsidiary protection for refugees but do not constitute a residence title in the legal sense, will be upheld (cf. Humanitarian migration).
The Act provides for highly qualified persons to be granted permanent residency from the outset. Such migrants may receive a settlement permit immediately if they invest at least €1 million and create at least 10 jobs. Foreign nationals who have graduated from a German university or college will be allowed to stay on for a further year in order to seek employment.
The ban on the recruitment of unqualified labour and persons with low qualifications is to be maintained. The ban on recruitment is also to be maintained for qualified persons, subject to one exemption: a work permit may be issued in justified instances if there is a public interest in an individual taking up employment.
Plans for introducing a credit system of immigration that would give preference to certain prospective immigrants have been abandoned.
Refugee status will also be granted in case of non-state and gender-specific persecution, pursuant to the EU asylum directive.
Although so-called "toleration certificates" will continue to be issued, residence permits can be granted in case of obstacles to deportation in order to avoid successive suspensions of deportation, in cases where the obligation to leave the country cannot be implemented within 18 months and if there is no misconduct on the part of the foreign national (e.g. an attempt to disguise his or her true identity). State governments can set up hardship commissions which will be entitled to issue a residence permit to migrants who would otherwise be obliged to leave the country unappealably, by way of derogation from the usual conditions.
Newly arriving immigrants who are eligible for permanent residency are entitled to participate in integration courses. Under certain conditions, participation can also be mandatory for non-German residents, for example long-term residents receiving welfare payments, (i.e. the recently introduced so-called Unemployment Benefit II), and/or migrants being classified by the authorities as "in special need of integration". If respective persons refuse to participate in the integration courses, possible sanctions include a reduction of welfare payments. Furthermore, their refusal will be taken into account in decisions on extending their residence permits.
The federal government will finance integration courses (both for new arrivals and the approx. 50,000 to 60,000 long-term residents per year who will be obliged to participate. The state governments, on the other hand, will bear the costs for counselling and child care.
Spätaussiedler (ethnic German immigrants)
Family members accompanying ethnic German immigrants will in future be obliged to provide proof of basic German language skills before entering Germany.
An extended deportation order will be introduced, which can be issued by state or federal authorities on the basis of an "evidence-based threat assessment". Legal redress will only be possible via a single appeal to the Federal Administrative Court. Regular expulsion will be introduced for foreign nationals who are members or supporters of terrorist organisations. Discretionary expulsions can also be imposed on so-called "intellectual incendiaries" (e.g. "hate preachers" in mosques). If deportations cannot be effected on account of obstacles to deportation (e.g. torture or the death penalty), enhanced security is to be provided in the form of new obligations to report to the authorities on a regular basis. Restrictions on freedom of movement and bans on communication can also be imposed, whereas preventive detention of such persons will not be introduced.
As a new provision, the smuggling of people will constitute a compelling ground for deportation in the case of persons receiving non-suspended custodial sentences for such offences.
Furthermore, a standard request for information on anti-constitutional activities will be submitted to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution prior to the issuance of permanent settlement permits and prior to decisions on naturalisation.
www.bmi.bund.de ("Details of the new immigration act", 18.06.04) // FTD 18.06.04 // NZ 18.06.04
Schily calls for asylum centres in Northern Africa
A spectacular rescue operation by the German aid organisation Cap Anamur, whose ship had taken aboard a group of African refugees shipwrecked in the coastal waters of Malta, taken them to Sicily and demanded that they be accepted as refugees, has sparked a heated debate on refugee policy in several European countries.
The Italian authorities declared that, in accordance with European regulations on safe third countries, they were not responsible for the refugees, preventing the refugees for several days from disembarking and entering Italian soil through a port in Sicily. German authorities then also rejected the asylum petitions of the African refugees on the same grounds. The refugees were eventually admitted to an Italian holding centre and later deported to their home countries. In addition, the head of the German aid organisation Cap Anamur was arrested and temporarily detained by Italian authorities for aiding and abetting illegal immigration to Italy.
The case has brought refugees dramas, which occur in the Southern Mediterranean Sea on a regular basis, to the focus of public attention and debate in Germany. According to Mr. Schily (SPD), the German interior minister, measures should be taken to prevent refugees from embarking on life-threatening sea journeys to European shores. In order to achieve this aim, Mr. Schily has called for setting up EU holding centres for refugees in Northern Africa. Under his proposal, EU officials could thus review asylum petitions of refugees in Northern Africa, i.e. before refugees enter European territory. Mr. Schily's proposals were bluntly rejected by representatives of the Greens, SPD and FDP, as well as by some members of the CDU. Representatives of the national churches and refugee organisations have also rejected the plan outright. Critics of the proposal have pointed out that, among other things, implementing the plan would be impossible for practical as well as legal reasons. For instance, the EU would not be able to guarantee that refugees are treated in a correct manner in the North African camps.
FAZ 13.07.04 // taz 13.07.04 // Die Welt 15.07.04 // FR 21.07.04 // SZ 21.07.04 // BZ 22.07.04 // SZ 23.07.04 // BZ 29.07.04
Conference of Interior Ministers agrees on federal database for "Islamists"
At their recent meeting in Kiel, Germany's interior ministers have agreed to set up a national centre for gathering, recording and analysing information on Islamist extremists. The centre will also compile a so-called "Islamist database", i.e. a national database collecting information on Islamist extremists. Ministers have emphasised the urgent need for sharing information between state authorities and a better cooperation between federal and state intelligence organisations and police authorities. Details of the plan have yet to be worked out.
State governments have reached a consensus on the obligation to pass on information to the federal government, but have so far not been able to agree on who should have access to the federal database. Data protection issues have also not been resolved yet. There has also been criticism as to whether the federal database will actually achieve its aim of detecting and preventing terrorist activities at an early stage. Ehrhart Körting (SPD), the Berlin Senator of the Interior, for example, has expressed doubts as to whether the huge amount of data to be compiled would not actually slow down the work of the authorities. Hakki Keskin, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, has criticised that the database would register too many people who are not involved in extremist activities and also generally treat the Muslim population of Germany as potential suspects. Thilo Weichert, chairman of the German Data Protection Association, has warned against mixing up the categories of "terrorism" and "extremism" in general.
FR 09.07.04 // Die Welt 09.07.04 // BZ 09.07.04 // FR 10.09.04 // BZ 19.07.04
Interior ministers fail to reach agreement on residence rights for refugees
Participants of the conference of German interior ministers in Kiel have failed to reach an agreement on residence rights for refugees from Afghanistan and the Kosovo ethnic minorities. However, ministers have emphasised that they will give preference to a voluntary repatriation scheme for Afghan refugees over forced deportation measures. SPD-led state governments have expressed their intention to grant residence rights to those refugees from Kosovo who have successfully integrated into German society and economy.
Berlin Senate bans all religious symbols in public services
In response to the headscarf ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, the Berlin Senate, i.e. the state government, has agreed on a law banning the display of all religious symbols in most public services, including the police force, the courts, the prison system and state schools; day-care facilities for children have been excluded from the ban. In a statement, the Berlin Senate has pointed out that the principle of the neutrality of the state entails that all religious denominations are treated equally, so that the "open display" of crucifixes or other Christian symbols cannot be tolerated in public services. Consequently, the Berlin state law is significantly more far-reaching than respective state regulations passed by other German states. Representatives of the Christian churches have criticised the law harshly, stating that religious symbols should not simply be equated with an item of clothing, which could also express a political meaning. The national churches have also expressed doubt as to whether the state law will be upheld by the Federal Constitutional Court.
BZ 21.07.04 // SZ 22.07.04 // FR 29.07.04
In July 2004, the total number of asylum applications amounted to 2,907. Comparing this figure with last month, the number of asylum applications has increased by 0.4% (12 applicants). Compared with July 2003, however, respective figures have decreased by 35.8% (9,458 applicants). In July 2004, asylum seekers' three main countries of origin continued to be Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey and the Russian Federation. The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has reviewed the asylum petitions of 5,381 applicants in July 2004, 2.2 % (117 applicants) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. A further 2.4% (128 applicants) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 AuslG (Foreigners Act). The petitions of 59.8% (3,218 applicants) have been rejected.
Press statement BMI 19.08.04
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