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efms Migration Report

March 2002

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German Bundestag passes immigration law

Following a heated debate, the German Bundestag, the first chamber of the federal parliament, passed the government bill on immigration reform on 1st March. 321 MPs voted for the bill, with 225 MPs opposing it and 41 MPs abstaining from voting. Among those opposing the bill were most CDU/CSU MPs as well as the PDS parliamentary party; all but one of the FDP MPs abstained from voting.

The bill received the support of the SPD and the Greens, i.e. the parties forming the government coalition, as well as of three MPs of the opposition CDU and one FDP politician. In order to become law, the bill has also to be passed by the Bundesrat, the second chamber of parliament representing the Laender (i.e. the federal states), which is scheduled to cast its vote on 22nd March.
FAZ 02.03.02

Controversial Bundesrat decision on immigration reform

In the run-up to the decisive vote of the Bundesrat, the second chamber of parliament representing the Laender (i.e. the federal states), on the government's immigration bill, there have been heated discussions on how individual federal states should vote. The situation is complicated by the fact that the parties forming the federal government coalition (SPD and the Greens) do not have a majority in the Bundesrat and thus need the support of Laender like Brandenburg, which is ruled by a grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU.

Among other things, the debate revolves around the question whether, after the vote in the Bundesrat, a conference committee should be set up between the two chambers of parliament in order to hammer out a compromise. CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, want to re-negotiate substantial parts of the bill, whereas the FDP has expressed the view that only a few aspects of the bill need to be amended. The ruling SPD and the Greens, on the other hand, are categorically opposed to setting up a conference committee as, in their opinion, the government bill already constitutes an all-party compromise.

Immediately before the Bundesrat vote, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder tried to rally the support of states that are still undecided, in particular Rhineland-Palatinate (ruled by a SPD/FDP coalition) and Brandenburg (ruled by a SPD/CDU coalition). In answer to demands by the Laender, Mr. Schröder has promised that the federal government would shoulder a larger part of the cost of integration programmes.

In its final decision, the Bundesrat passed the government bill, with a majority of 35 state representatives (out of 69) supporting it. However, the decisive votes were cast by representatives of the Brandenburg state government, whose behaviour caused major altercations. Basically, the contentious issue is whether Brandenburg has actually cast a unanimous vote, as prescribed by Germany's constitution, or a split vote, which would render it invalid. The president of the Bundesrat, Klaus Wowereit (SPD), has come to the conclusion that Brandenburg has cast a unanimous vote, and thus declared that the bill has been passed by a majority. Whereas the governing parties support his point of view, the opposition parties have accused the government of foul play, as they are of the opinion that Brandenburg has in fact cast a split vote, rendering it invalid. Independent legal experts have expressed differing views on the matter.

The immigration law, which has now officially been passed by both houses of parliament, will not take effect until it has been signed by Johannes Rau, the Federal President, whose signature testifies that the law has been passed in accordance with the constitution. Due to contradictory legal views on the matter, Johannes Rau is not expected to sign the law immediately, but will first subject the passing of the law to a legal review.

CDU/CSU governed states have appealed to Mr. Rau, demanding that he refuses to sign the law, in view of the doubts as to whether it has been passed in accordance with the constitution. Mr. Brüderle, deputy chairman of the FDP, has suggested that the Federal President should hold all-party talks in order to find a compromise without appealing to the Federal Constitutional Court, as has been threatened by the CDU/CSU.
FR 23.03.02 // NZ 23.03.02 // Welt 23.03.02 // FAZ 25.03.02 // SZ 25.03.02 // FAZ 26.03.02 // SZ 26.03.02 // FAZ 27.03.02 // SZ 27.03.02 // FAZ 28.03.02 // SZ 28.03.02 // Welt 28.03.02

Administrative Court rules on convicted non-German EU nationals

Foreign nationals who are EU citizens cannot automatically be expelled from Germany if they have committed one or several criminal offences. This, in summary, has been the ruling of the Hesse Administrative Court (VGH) in the case of a Portuguese national who has been a resident of Germany for thirty years and has been repeatedly convicted of criminal offences; in effect, the court has overturned an expulsion decree by local authorities in Kassel.

According to the Hesse Administrative Court, the essential legal issue is whether a person can be expected to pose a future danger to society, whereas the question if preventive measures could deter other potential criminals is, legally, of minor importance. In addition, authorities also have to take the family situation of a convict into consideration before they decide on a temporary or life-long expulsion.
NZ 05.03.02 // SZ 05.03.02

Increasing doubts as to success of screen searches

According to the Federal Interior Ministry and the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA), Islamist terrorists continue, six months after the terrorist attacks in the USA, to pose a threat to national security, even though authorities have not found clues pointing towards imminent terrorist attacks.

Otto Schily (SPD), the Federal Interior Minister, has also defended the investigative practice of screen searches, by means of which 22,900 potential suspects have so far been filtered out of 6 million sets of personal data. However, the practice is increasingly criticised by data protection officials, parts of the police force and some politicians.

For example, the deputy chairman of the Association of Germany's Criminal Investigators (BDK), has criticised that screen searches have not produced the desired results, which, in his view, is partly due to differences in state police laws and contradictory court rulings. Furthermore, the request of the BKA to various associations of energy providers and the chemical industry to open up their employee files have so far not led to any results worth mentioning.
dpa 07.03.02 // FR 09.03.02 // Spiegel 11.03.02 // Zeit 14.03.02

Asylum statistics

5,697 applications for political asylum were submitted in March, a decrease of 74 applicants (-1.3%) over the previous month. In particular, the number of Iraqi nationals filing initial applications has fallen from 1,012 (in February) to 799. Compared to March 2000, asylum application figures have also decreased, by 1,554 (-21.4%). If one compares the first quarter of 2001 and 2002, respectively, application figures have fallen by 1,818 (-8.6%).

Asylum seekers' main countries of origin in March 2002 were Turkey (812), Iraq (799) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (605), followed by the Russian Federation (348) and Afghanistan (250).

In March 2002, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on 11,025 asylum applications, 2.1% of which have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. An additional 4.2% are protected against deportation according to 51 Par.1 Aliens Act, and a further 104 persons are protected because there are obstacles to deportation according to 53 Aliens Act. 62.3% of all applications (a total of 6,974) have been rejected.
Press statement BMI 07.04.02 // dpa 07.04.02 // FR 08.04.02

March 2002

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