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efms Migration Report

May 2003

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EU interior ministers still divided over harmonisation of asylum policy

EU interior ministers have once again failed to reach an agreement concerning common criteria for recognising refugees and processing asylum petitions. The main contentious issue is about which refugee groups are to be granted "subsidiary protection". Otto Schily (SPD), the German interior minister, was the only participant who refused to extend protection to refugees who have been subject to non-governmental persecution; in his view, these refugees should only be issued toleration certificates in Germany. Mr. Schily has also reiterated his reservations concerning harmonised EU regulations allowing inflows of labour migrants.

But interior ministers have reached agreement concerning so-called "ex-post asylum grounds". They have agreed that each member state is free to decide on its own whether it recognises refugees who have created asylum grounds after migrating to an EU member country. Furthermore, ministers have reached a consensus over restricting the protection for refugees who themselves are guilty of committing human rights violations.

According to a timetable set by EU heads of government and state at the European Council Meeting in Tampere (Finland) in 1999, EU interior ministers have to agree on common standards for refugees seeking shelter in an EU member state. The UNHCR and the Pro Asyl lobbying group have renewed their appeal to the German government to end its blockade of a harmonisation of EU refugee and asylum law.

At the EU interior minister meeting, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has left no doubt that he will continue to reject any respective EU proposals as long as the German government coalition has been unable to reach an agreement with opposition parties over a new German migration law. Hartmut Koschyk (CSU), the interior-policy spokesman of the opposition CDU/CSU parliamentary party, has warned the red-green government coalition against taking advantage of EU regulations in order to extend refugee rights in Germany, as there is no parliamentary majority in Germany supporting such a step. The CDU/CSU parliamentary party has also introduced a parliamentary initiative forcing the Federal Government to "inform parliament extensively about all developments in EU foreign-resident, asylum and migration policy."
FR 07.05.03 // dpa 08.05.03 // FR 08.05.03 // FR 09.05.03 // SZ 09.05.03 // FAZ 28.05.03

Red-green government coalition re-introduces migration bill in the German Bundestag

In the run-up to the parliamentary debate on the federal government's migration bill in the Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament, the opposition CDU/CSU parliamentary party has demanded no fewer than 128 amendments to the government bill in the parliamentary interior policy committee. In a statement, the CDU/CSU parliamentary party has justified this move by expressing the view that the government bill will not lead to limiting migration inflows but, on the contrary, allow additional inflows of migrants to Germany. Consequently, a compromise between opposition parties and the red-green government coalition is only "conceivable if the government bill is comprehensively amended", according to CDU/CSU representatives. The main demands of opposition parties comprise the following points: repealing in part the 1999 reform of naturalisation law, renewing the general recruitment ban for non-German labour and expanding integration programmes. In the Bundestag's parliamentary committee for interior policy, these demands were rejected by parliamentarians of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP.

After a heated debate in a plenary session of the German Bundestag, the government migration bill was passed by the red-green majority, with CDU/CSU and the two PDS parliamentarians voting against it; the FDP parliamentary party abstained. Whereas representatives of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party expressed fierce opposition against the government bill and insisted on their list of 128 amendments, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) expressed his willingness to compromise in some points. Max Stadler, the FDP interior policy spokesman, stated that his party generally supports the government bill, but also called for additional regulations fostering the integration of migrants into society.

Both the government coalition and the opposition parties expect the migration bill to fail in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament representing the German states. Therefore the bill is likely to be referred to the parliamentary conference committee. Volker back, the deputy speaker of the Green parliamentary party, has also expressed his willingness to compromise, but insisted that the reform has to ensure an improvement of current legal standards. Volker Kauder, the parliamentary secretary of the CDU/CSU, has meanwhile announced that the parliamentary conference committee will not take up negotiations before autumn. Mr. Kauder blamed the red-green government coalition for the delay, stating that it failed to initiate fast-track parliamentary procedures and will not introduce the bill in the Bundesrat before the end of June.
FR 10.05.03 // dpa 05.05.03 // dpa 07.05.03 // FR 08.05.03 // SZ 08.05.03 // Welt 08.05.03 // FAZ 10.05.03 // FR 10.05.03 // SZ 10.05.03 // Welt 10.05.03 // FAZ 21.05.03 // SZ 21.05.03

CDU/CSU interior ministers draft integration bill for non-German residents

At their meeting in Bremen, state interior ministers representing the CDU/CSU opposition parties have decided to introduce before the parliamentary summer recess an integration bill for non-German residents in the Bundesrat, the second parliamentary chamber representing state governments. Uwe Schünemann (CDU), the interior minister of Lower Saxony, has confirmed that his state will organise the initiative. The bill which, according to Mr Schünemann, will be based on Lower Saxony's state integration law, calls for expanding integration courses for migrants, increasing the current 600-lesson curriculum to almost 1,000 lessons, and expanding obligations to participate to non-Germans who already are residents of Germany and receive welfare payments or unemployment benefits. Furthermore, migrants entering Germany for the first time are to pay the entire course fees themselves, with exceptions granted to migrants entitled to political asylum, so-called "quota refugees" and people depending on welfare payments.

However, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has rejected the initiative, refusing to split up the government migration bill into several legislative proposals. CDU representatives have also expressed criticism of the proposals. Saarland Premier Peter Müller (CDU) has distanced himself from the proposals of this Lower-Saxony colleague, calling once again for passing the migration reform as a whole. CDU chairwoman Angela Merkel has expressed a similar view, warning fellow party members against creating the impression that the CDU/CSU are blocking a compromise on migration reform. Max Stadler, the FDP interior policy spokesman, has confirmed that his party continues to work for a comprehensive reform of migration law. He has conceded that the Lower Saxony proposals constitute a starting point for discussions concerning migration and integration.
SZ 10.05.03 // FR 13.05.03 // taz 13.05.03 // Welt 13.05.03 // FR 16.05.03 // SZ 16.05.03 // FR. 20.05.03 // SZ 23.05.03

Expert panel for migration and integration has been constituted

Following a decree by Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD), the federal government has set up an expert panel for migration and integration. The panel was constituted at a meeting in Nuremberg. According to Mr. Schily, the independent panel is responsible for "continuously evaluating the national capacity for immigration and integration as well as current developments in migration". Mr. Schily and Rita Süssmuth, the chairwoman of the expert panel, have both expressed their conviction that the work of the panel will contribute to rendering the migration debate more objective and factual.

The migration panel, which will hold meetings once or twice every month and publish its first report in the summer of 2004, consists of the following members: Rita Süssmuth, the chairwoman, Prof. Klaus J. Bade, director of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies, Gerd Landsberg, representative of the German Association of Municipalities, Prof. Gert Wagner, research director at the German Institute for Economic Research, Christoph Kannegießer, representing the German Association of Employers, and Heinz Putzhammer, representing the German Trade Union Association. A seventh member, a demographics expert, is still to be named.
FR 27.05.03 // NN 27.05.03 // SZ 27.05.03

Interior ministers oppose forced repatriation of Afghan and Iraqi refugees

At the spring conference of German interior ministers in Erfurt (Thuringia), ministers have agreed to refrain from the forced repatriation of Afghan and Iraqi refugees for the time being. Even though ministers insist on the eventual repatriation of Afghan and Iraqi refugees, they prefer voluntary repatriation, as unstable conditions in refugees' home countries do at present not allow forced repatriations. Ministers representing the opposition CDU/CSU parties were unable to find a majority supporting repatriations of refugees as early as this summer. However, interior ministers have agreed that Afghan refugees that have committed a criminal offence in Germany or who are suspected of "posing a danger to national security" will be subject to "earlier repatriation". According to reports published by Amnesty International and the UNHCR, the unstable security situation in Afghanistan does not allow any forced repatriations for the time being.

Concerning residence entitlements for Romany people and other ethnic-minority refugees, interior ministers have made it clear that this group will not be granted a permanent residence title, opposing respective proposals by Marieluise Beck (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration. Once again, interior ministers give priority to voluntary repatriation, but do not rule out forced repatriation in certain cases. Ministers have called on the Federal Interior Ministry to intensify negotiations with UNMIK, the UN administration of Kosovo, in order to continue and expand repatriations. According to current agreements between UNMIK and the Federal Government, repatriations of some ethnic minorities are permitted on a certain scale. Forced repatriations of Romany people and other members of ethnic minorities, however, are not admissible until March 2004.
FR 07.05.03 // dpa 14.05.03 // FAZ 16.05.03 // FR 16.05.03 // SZ 16.05.03

Asylum statistics

In May 2003, a total of 3,758 persons have submitted petitions for political asylum in Germany, a decrease by 254 persons (- 6.3 %) over the previous months. Asylum figures have thus reached their lowest level since June 1987. Compared to May 2002, the number of asylum seekers has dropped by 29.7 % (1,588 persons).

In May 2003, the main countries of origin were Turkey (456), Serbia and Montenegro (358), Iraq (244), followed by the Russian Federation (234) and China (225). The decrease was most significant for asylum applicants from Iraq; in April, 446 nationals of Iraq had submitted an asylum petition.

During May 2003, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on the applications of 7,545 persons, 119 (1.6 %) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. A further 159 persons (2.1 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to § 51 Par.1 Foreigners Act. The petitions of 5,256 persons (69.7 %) have been rejected.
Press Statement BMI 06.06.03

May 2003

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