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efms Migration Report

June 2004

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Breakthrough in debate on new immigration law

After Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) had been able to reach a compromise on major aspects of the government immigration bill with leaders of the main opposition parties (CDU, CSU and FDP) in late May, representatives of both the government and the opposition have expressed optimism as to the chances of finally passing a new immigration act. Only a minority of leading CDU/CSU politicians, among them Roland Koch (CDU), Hesse's prime minister, and Horst Seehofer (CSU), deputy speaker of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party in the Bundestag (the federal parliament), have expressed scepticism, leaving it open whether they will vote for the final version of the bill in parliament. Representatives of the Green coalition partner, on the other hand, have criticised that, according to the agreement among party leaders, they will not be invited to participate in the final round of negotiations on the exact wording of the bill.

Apart from the criticism, the red-green government coalition and the opposition parties still need to clarify unresolved questions in two main areas: on the one hand, whether to tighten expulsion and deportation guidelines in the interest of national security; on the other hand, how to finance the planned integration courses. The opposition CDU/CSU parties have demanded that the federal government should bear the costs, not only for the language and orientation courses for new immigrants, but also for the courses offered to foreign nationals that already are residents of Germany ("ex-post integration").

In the final round of negotiations, headed by Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD), and attended by Saarland's prime minister Peter Mueller (CDU) and Bavarian interior minister Günther Beckstein (CSU), Mr. Schily has made far-reaching concessions to opposition parties concerning the financing of integration courses. Negotiators have thus been able to reach a final agreement on the wording of the immigration bill. After the talks, Mr. Schily called the compromise a "historic change" of German legislation. The negotiators of the opposition CDU/CSU parties have also expressed their satisfaction with the results. Reinhard Buetikofer, speaker of the Green Party, has stated that, on the whole, the agreement constitutes a "sustainable compromise".

On June 30, the parliamentary conference committee will hold a final vote on the bill and then transfer it to the plenary session of the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the federal parliament. In order to pass the law before the parliamentary summer recess, both houses of parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, have to vote on it before July 9.
FAZ 03.06.04 // SZ 03.06.04 // BZ 12.06.04 // Welt 12.06.04 // BZ 14.06.04 // SZ 14.06.04 // Handelsblatt 15.06.04 // FR 16.06.04 // SZ 17.06.04 // FAZ 18.06.04 // FR 18.06.04 // FTD 18.06.04 // Welt 18.06.04 // Welt 22.06.04

Federal Administrative Court: Protection against deportation can also be granted as individual right

In accordance with previous decisions, the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) in Leipzig has ruled that protection against deportation (according to §53 Par.6 Foreigners Act) can only be granted as an individual right. Consequently, it does not automatically extend to an entire family group if one member of a family faces " threats to life and limb or liberty" in case of deportation to his/her home country.

In the underlying case, a 33-year old Nigerian woman whose asylum petition had been rejected appealed against a decision which did not grant her protection against deportation. The administrative court of the first instance had upheld her appeal against the administrative refusal to grant her protection against deportation. The local administrative court had based its decision on the interests of the child of the complainant, stating that mother and child should be considered a "unity" and therefore protection should also be granted to the mother - irrespective of the fact that no application for protection against deportation had been submitted on behalf of the child.

The higher-instance courts, i.e. the Bavarian Administrative Court and the Federal Administrative Court, have not upheld this decision, stating that it has to be determined for each person individually whether protection against deportation can be granted, including the child of the complainant. If the child, however, were protected against deportation, constitutional rights protecting families would not allow a deportation of the mother (BVerwG 1C 27.03).
Press statement BVerwG 16.06.04 // FAZ 17.06.04 // FR 17.06.04

Saarland introduces headscarf ban for female Muslim teachers

Following the example of the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Lower Saxony, Saarland has been the third German state to introduce a headscarf ban for female Muslim teachers. In the Saarland state parliament, MPs representing the governing CDU and the opposition SPD parties have both voted unanimously for amending the state school act. According to the amendment, wearing a headscarf as a political symbol will in future be banned at state schools, whereas Christian and Jewish symbols will continue to be admissible.

In order to justify the unequal treatment of different religions, both parliamentary parties have invoked the state constitution, which calls for education to be based on Christian educational and cultural values. Even though MPs of both parliamentary parties admit that wearing a headscarf can be a religious symbol, in their view it also a symbol of fundamentalism, intolerance and the oppression of women. In the words of Klaus Meiser, deputy speaker of the CDU parliamentary party, restrictions of religious freedom are therefore admissible.
Welt 22.06.04 // SZ 24.06.04 // taz 24.06.04

Federal Administrative Court: Baden-Wuerttemberg law banning headscarves is constitutional

The Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) in Leipzig has ruled that the legal headscarf ban in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is "in accordance with the German constitution" and constitutes a sufficient legal basis for banning Muslim teachers from wearing a headscarf at public schools. The court has also ruled that the state law is in accordance with a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court in September 2003, which had stipulated that headscarf bans have to be based on a state law and that state legislatures have to ensure the equal treatment of all religions.

The Baden-Wuerttemberg state law, an amendment of the state education act, generally bans teachers from "publicly displaying symbols" that have the potential of challenging the religious neutrality of the state and breaching school peace. According to the judges at the Leipzig-based court, the state ban affects "all religions and religious affiliations equally". Even thought the state law expressly allows "the display of Christian and occidental educational and cultural values", the Federal Administrative Court has decided that the Baden-Wuerttemberg state law does not give undue preference to Christian religions. (BVerwG 2 C 45.03)

The court ruling has sparked a lively public debate. One the one hand, Annette Schavan (CDU), the Baden-Wuerttemberg state education minister, has welcomed the court ruling, calling it a "positive signal for schools" and a decision that "finally provides clarification" in the headscarf debate. Nadeen Elyas, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, on the other hand, has criticised that the Baden-Wuerttemberg state law de-facto treats symbols of different religions unequally, as the display of Christian and Jewish symbols is admissible, whereas the wearing of a headscarf is banned, a view that has also been shared by Volker Beck, legal expert of the Greens, and Gottfried Mahrenholz, a former judge at the Federal Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission has also intervened in the German headscarf debate, expressing its concern that state laws banning headscarves could violate the EU discrimination ban.
Press statement BVerwG 24.06.04 // FAZ 25.06.04 // taz 25.06.04 // SZ 26.06.04 // Welt 26.06.04 // SZ 28.06.04

Number of asylum seekers has dropped considerably during first half of 2004

During the first six months of the year 2004, a total of 18,682 initial asylum petitions have been submitted in Germany, a significant decrease by 22,5 % (-5,429 applicants) over the second half of the year 2003, and by 29.4 % (- 7,770 applicants) over the first half of the year 2003.

Between January and June 2004, asylum seekers' main countries of origin have been Turkey (2,289 applicants), Serbia and Montenegro (2,007 applicants) and the Russian Federation (1,261 applicants), followed by Vietnam (794), Iran (711) and Azerbaijan (680). Comparing figures for individual countries, there has been a decrease for nine of the ten main countries of origin over the second half of the year 2003. Numbers have dropped sharply for asylum applications by nationals of China (- 42.6 %), Iran (- 32.3 %) and the Russian Federation (- 31.9 %) in particular.

In the period between January and June 2004, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed a decision on the asylum petitions of 34,811 applicants, 1.6 % (551 people) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum, with a further 1.7 % (596 people) being granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act. The petitions of 22,791 applicants (65.5 %) have been rejected. The remaining 10,873 cases (31.2 %) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. when applicants have withdrawn their petitions).

Comparing the ten main countries of origin, the rate of recognition (as entitled to political asylum according to Art. 16a Basic Law), has been highest for asylum seekers from Iran (5.0 %), Turkey (4.9 %) and Pakistan (3.0 %). Protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act has been granted, above all, to refugees from the Russian Federation (12.7 %), Iran (4.4 %), Turkey (2.8 %) and China (2.6 %).
Press statement BMI 04.08.04

Asylum statistics

In June 2004, at total of 2,895 applicants have submitted petitions for asylum in Germany, an increase by 11.0 % (+ 286 people) over May 2004, but a decrease by 20,8 % (- 758 people) over June 2003. The main countries of origin in June 2004 were Serbia and Montenegro (347), Turkey (322) and the Russian Federation (159), followed by Vietnam (146) and Pakistan (132).

In June 2004, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed a decision on the asylum petitions of 5,022 applicants, 1.4 % (73 people) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum, with a further 1.4 % (70 people) being granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act. The petitions of 3,259 applicants (64.9 %) have been rejected. The remaining 1,620 cases (32.3 %) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. when applicants have withdrawn their petitions).
Press statement BMI 04.08.04

June 2004

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