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efms Migration Report

March 2003

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Entrenched positions in migration debate - Schily: No compromise at any cost

The controversy surrounding migration reform has intensified among political parties in Germany. A compromise proposal presented by the FDP, which called, among other things, for an annual immigration quota and amendments to the planned system of integration courses, has been rejected outright by the CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, even before the migration bill was re-introduced into parliament.

However, differences of opinion persist among Union parties (CDU/CSU), too: Whereas Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber (CSU), supported by CDU representatives from Baden-Wurttemberg, is aiming at passing a "small legislative immigration package" only, focussing on the integration of migrants, Saarland premier Peter Müller (CDU) continues to be opposed to all efforts to undo the legislative package as a whole. Mr. Müller's views have been supported by the FDP, whose deputy chairman Walter Döring has made it clear that his party does not agree with splitting up the immigration packing into separate integration and immigration bills.

In view of the growing opposition by the CDU/CSU, representatives of the Greens, among them Volker Beck, secretary of the Green parliamentary party, and Marieluise Beck, the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, have appeared pessimistic about reaching a consensus with the Union opposition parties.

In the parliamentary debate on the government's migration bill, the entrenched positions among political parties have become all too apparent. The Union parties (CDU/CSU) have confirmed their opposition to the government bill, and, in line with prior announcements, rejected the FDP compromise proposal. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has accused the Union parties of "running a blockade", pointing out that the government coalition is not willing to enter a compromise at all cost: The SPD would not accept a migration bill which incorporates proposals of the opposition only. In the aftermath of the parliamentary debate, interior- and migration-policy experts of the SPD have emphasised that the government will only accept minor concessions, due to the fact that, in their view, the current bill already constitutes a compromise between the government coalition and opposition parties.

Nevertheless, employers' associations and trade unions have found common ground concerning migration reform. Ludwig Georg Braun, President of the German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHT), and Heinz Putzhammer, member of the executive committee of the Association of German Labour Unions (DGB), have renewed their demands for a rapid implementation of the migration bill which, as they have emphasised, is also in the economic interest of Germany.
dpa 02.03.03 // Focus 04.03.03 // Welt 04.03.03 // SZ 10.03.03 // Welt 10.03.03 // dpa 11.03.03 // FAZ 12.03.03 // dpa 13.03.03 // Press statement by the Bavarian Mininstry of the Interior 13.03.03 // Spiegel 13.03.03// SZ 13.03.03 // Tagesspiegel 14.03.03 // taz 14.03.03 // Welt am Sonntag 16.03.03 // dpa 19.03.03

New debate on school achievement of children with a migration background

The recent publication of detailed results of the international OECD education study (PISA), which focus on the reading ability of 15-year old pupils, has led to the conclusion that "average achievement of pupils plummets" as soon as the proportion of migrants in a school class exceeds 20% of all pupils. If respective figures exceed 40%, however, no further decrease in educational achievement has been found. The Max-Planck Institute for Education Research, which is responsible for conducting the PISA study in Germany, has explained this by the fact that schools generally only conduct additional support programmes if the proportion of migrants has already exceeded a "critical threshold". In addition, researchers at the institute have drawn the conclusion that schools have apparent difficulties in dealing with heterogeneity.

Marieluise Beck (Greens), Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and Federal Government Commissioner for Foreign Resident Affairs, has re-iterated her warnings against blaming children with a migration background for the poor results of German schools in the PISA study. In addition, Mrs. Beck has pointed out the fact that the educational achievement of pupils depends, above all, on their social background. Therefore she has called for screening the language competence of all children and instituting additional language support programmes. Eva-Maria Stange, chairwomen of the labour union Education and Science (GEW), and Karin Wolf (CDU), chairwoman of the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK), have made similar proposals, calling for additional pre-school support programmes.

Jürgen Rüttgers, deputy chairman of the CDU federal party and chairman of the CDU in North-Rhine Westphalia, has also called for early language testing and pre-school language support programmes for all children. In addition, however, he has demanded that the percentage of pupils with a migration background be limited in the form of a "quota for non-German pupils"; however, this proposal has been rejected by the KMK-chairwoman.
Welt 04.03.03 // FAZ 05.03.03 // FR 06.03.03 // Welt 05.03.03 // SZ 06.03.03 // taz 06.03.03 // FAZ 10.03.03

Federal Constitutional Court rules on rejected asylum seekers

The Federal Constitutional Court has published its ruling on asylum seekers whose petitions have been rejected and who are under a legal obligation to leave the country, but cannot be deported to their home countries due to their lack of valid travel documents. According to the highest German court, authorities are obliged in these cases to issue toleration certificates to these refugees, even if they refuse to cooperate in obtaining respective travel documents. Furthermore, the court has pointed out that these refugees must not be prosecuted for illegally residing in Germany.

The ruling has overturned an earlier decision by the Bavarian Highest District Court, and upheld the complaint of a Syrian national who entered Germany in 1998, but, after failing to be recognised as entitled to political asylum, could not be deported since authorities have been unable to obtain valid documents for his return journey to Syria. As the refugee had not been granted a toleration certificate, he was sentenced to a four-month prison sentence (without parole) for illegal residence in Germany. (Ref. 2BvR 397/02)
FAZ 12.03.03

Federal Ministry of the Interior suspends asylum proceedings for refugees from Iraq

In response to the outbreak of the Iraq war, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has directed the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees to suspend asylum proceedings for applicants from Iraq for the time being. Mr. Schily has also requested all federal states to refrain from deporting rejected asylum applicants to Iraq. Whereas representatives of the CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, have called these steps incomprehensible, due to the fact that the German states have been unable for years to deport refugees to Iraq, on account of non-existing air connections, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) has welcomed Mr. Schily's decision. According to Stefan Telöken, the UNHCR spokesperson in Germany, the decision has turned "the technical impossibility of deporting Iraqi refugees into a legal one".

In 2002, the recognition quota for refugees from Iraq (who were recognised as entitled to political asylum or as protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act: semi-asylum status) fell drastically to 24%, as opposed to 62% during the previous year, mainly due to the fact that German authorities have classified Northern Iraq as a "domestic safe haven" for refugees. According to Claudia Roth (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights, it is no longer acceptable to classify Northern Iraq as such. The UNHCR has come to the same conclusion, pointing out that there are no safe havens for refugees within Iraq.

Meanwhile, Günter Beckstein (CSU), the Bavarian Minister of the Interior, has announced that asylum applicants from Iraq will be screened by Bavarian Authorities for the Protection of the Constitution more thoroughly. Mr. Beckstein has pointed out that, even though it is true that the great majority of the 30,000 Iraqi refugees in Bavaria have left their home country in order to escape from Saddam Hussein's regime, it cannot be ruled out that some of them have "infiltrated" Germany as agents of the Iraqi regime. Currently, one exile group of Iraqi nationals is under observation by German authorities nation-wide, due to their loyalty towards the Iraqi regime.
NN 04.03.03 // Press Statement UNHCR 12.03.03 // SZ 20.03.03 // FAZ 22.03.03 // SZ 22.03.03 // Welt 22.03.03 // FR 26.03.03

Asylum statistics

In March 2003, the downward trend in the number of asylum petitions continued, with a total of 4,329 refugees applying for political asylum in Germany. Compared to February 2003, respective figures decreased by only 157 persons (- 3.5 %), but compared to February 2002, there has been a significant decrease by 24 % (1,368 persons). On the whole, figures for the first quarter of 2003 have fallen by 22.4% (4,299 persons), compared to the same period last year.

In March 2003, asylum applicants' main countries of origin were Iraq (592), Turkey (521), Serbia and Montenegro (388), China (207), Vietnam (202) and the Russian Federation (186). Concerning asylum seekers from Iraq, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has registered only a slight increase, from 502 applicants in February to 592 applicants in March; in January, respective figures had been as high as 1,022 persons.

The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided the cases of 9,395 persons in March 2003. 210 applicants (2.2%) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. An additional 220 applicants (2.3%) have been recognised as protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act ("semi-asylum status"). The applications of 6,655 persons (70.9%) have been rejected; among them, 137 persons are also protected because there are other obstacles to deportation according to §53 Foreigners Act.
Press statement BMI 08.04.03 // FAZ 09.04.03

March 2003

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