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efms Migration Report

March 2007

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UNICEF: Call for more equal rights of Roma children in the EU

On the occasion of the conference "Roma Children in Europe - between Integration and Isolation" held on 5 March 2007 in Berlin, the United Nations International Children"s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) criticised the situation of Roma children in Europe and, in particular, in South East Europe. According to UNICEF, most of the 8 to 10 million Roma in countries like Albania, Bulgaria and Romania are living in great poverty and isolated ghettos. In some countries, between 20 und 40 per cent of the Roma children would not be enrolled at school and about 20 per cent would have health problems, compared to only 7 per cent of the children from non-Roma families. UNICEF appealed to the governments in Europe, to grant Roma children the same rights as to all to other children in the areas of health services, education and protection. It pleaded Germany for more generous residence regulations for refugee Roma families. In particular, the children needed to be enabled to attend school in order to give them an opportunity to escape from the vicious circle of poverty, isolation and prejudices.
Press release of UNICEF of 05.03.07 // FR 06.03.07

EU: Sweden wants Iraqi refugees to be distributed more evenly

Against the background of the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq, Sweden has opened-up its borders to refugees more than every other European country. Now it calls for a "more just" distribution of the refugees among the European Union (EU). In 2006, Sweden admitted almost 9,000 refugees from Iraq, granted them the right to remain and financed language courses. For the year 2007, Sweden expects another 20,000 refugees to come. In comparison, only 2,100 Iraqi nationals filed an asylum application in Germany in 2006, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Some countries such as Denmark are opposed to take in more asylum seekers from Iraq. The Danish government is of the opinion that the problem could be solved only in Iraq itself. Some European states, such as Germany, even take into consideration a repatriation of those Iraqi refugees to Iraq who are from the relatively calm northern part of the country. Baghdad would welcome a repatriation too, as the mass emigration of mostly well-educated citizens would cause problems.
SZ 05.03.07

Human rights and refugee organisations criticise EU plans on immigration policy

The plans of the European Union (EU) regarding its migration policy have been criticised by various human rights and refugee organisations. The concept of the EU immigration policy implies stronger restrictions to immigration at its external borders by simultaneously fighting the causes leading to emigration out of the countries of origin by providing financial development aids. At the same time, however, legal immigration into the EU is to be allowed as well. The spokesman of ProAsyl, Bernd Mesovic, criticised that immigration and asylum policy would not be separated from each other clearly enough. Moreover, the EU would set "certain priorities" when selecting the refugees to be allowed to enter its territory instead of caring about all refugees as it is foreseen by the Geneva Convention. Amnesty International considered the plans for more development aid as "noble objectives"; in some countries the amount of money remitted back to the countries of origin by persons working in the EU would even be higher than the development aids. In particular, however, Amnesty International and Pro Asyl criticised the lack of statements regarding the refugee policy. According to Mesovic, especially political refugees needed to be offered fair procedures instead of merely repatriating them.
taz 29.03.07

Germany/Spain: Joint integration initiative

On the occasion of a meeting on 28 February 2007 in Berlin, the Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), and her Spanish counterpart, Maria del Consuelo Rumi Ibáñez, agreed to intensify their cooperation in the area of integration policy. The goal would be to give the integration policy new impetus on European level. According to Böhmer, the ongoing exchange of experiences, particularly of examples of successful integration efforts in the areas of education, juveniles and labour market is of fundamental importance. Before the next meeting of the two politicians, a German-Spanish expert team is to find out how the cooperation of both countries could be deepened.
Press release of Federal Government of 28.02.07

Reform of Immigration Law

Following long negotiations between the Union parties and the SPD, the Federal Cabinet has started to introduce a reform of the Immigration Law. The draft bill is aimed at transposing eleven EU Directives, at promoting integration, at strengthening the internal security and at regulating by law the legal status of foreigners who are living in Germany for a long time as tolerated persons. Thus, one core aspect of the provisions on the right to remain decided about in 2006 will be carried on in the form of establishing a single qualifying day: Tolerated foreigners are now to be granted a permanent right of residence if they are able to earn their livings on their own, if they are well integrated and have no criminal records. A residence right "on trial" gives them time until 31 December 2009 to find employment on a regular basis. The Immigration Law is tightened insofar as the minimum age for the unification of spouses, for example, is raised to 18 years and evidence of German language skills has to be provided before entering the country. Moreover, foreigners who refuse to attend integration courses can be sanctioned by cuts of their social welfare benefits. At the same time, the law provides for an easing of the situation of victims of human trafficking, who will be granted a temporary right of residence if they are willing to participate in criminal trials. Moreover, further offers are made available by granting scientists special residence titles and by introducing new provisions on the freedom of movement of students who have been admitted in another EU Member State already. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) contradicted numerous migrant organisations which criticised that the planned amendments would not contribute to integration and said that the amendments to the law would be a mixture of the principle of "supporting and demanding". On the one hand, foreigners would be required to contribute more to their integration - on the other hand, they were provided more support in doing so. Refugee organisations criticised that the provisions on the right to remain would not solve the problem of the so-called "repeated toleration certificates" and added that also in future there would be always persons that entered the country after a certain qualifying day. Due to the huge number of exclusion criteria it would also be likely that only a small part of the persons affected are actually granted the right of residence. The Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), appealed to the employers to treat tolerated persons equally when applying for a job.
taz 14.03.07 // Press release of BMI of 28.03.07 // Bundesregierung online 28.03.07 // Die Welt 29.03.07 // taz 29.03.07 // FAZ 29.03.07 // SZ 29.03.07

Increase in human smugglings at the border between Bavaria and the Czech Republic

For the first time since many years, the number of human smugglings at the border between the Czech Republic and Bavaria has increased again. In 2006, the number of human smugglings has increased by almost 40 per cent compared to the previous year, according to a spokesman of the police. In the past year, customs authorities and the police detained a total of 2,337 persons who had immigrated illegally or who had been smuggled. In the year before, the figure had amounted to 1,416 persons. By the new year, the border controls are to be reduced within the framework of the adaptation of the Czech Republic to the standards of the Schengen treaty, said the chief constable, Hans Junker. The almost 900 police officers who are deployed at the border so far would afterwards work in mobile units in the German border districts to form a "search veil" in order to combat illegal immigration.
NN 16.03.07// SZ 16.03.07

Four Muslim associations to be united under one umbrella

Four Muslim associations, i.e. the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany (IR), the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (Ditib) and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VKIZ) will merge to form a common representation of interest even this year. According to Bekir Alboga, spokesman of Ditib, the merger is meant to establish a body that represents the Muslims in Germany. It is questionable, however, how many of the 3.2 to 3.5 million Muslims living in Germany will be represented by these associations after all. Many of them consider themselves as secular Muslims and are not affiliated to the religious associations. Moreover, theological differences between the Islamic associations constitute an obstacle to the merger. Ali Toprak, secretary general of the Alevite Community in Germany, for instance, said he refused to cooperate with the other Muslim associations since they would have a completely different view of the religion. Armin Laschet (CDU), the Integration Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, welcomed the planned merger and demanded at the same time that further steps needed to be taken. He added that only forming an umbrella organisation would not be sufficient to be recognised as religious community by the state; loyalty to the constitution and clear evidence on the membership base would be prerequisites too.
FAZ 04.03.07 // Der Spiegel 05.03.07 // taz 05.03.07 // Katholische Nachrichtenagentur 07.03.07

A voice for ex-Muslims

In January, the human rights activist Mina Ahadi of Iranian origin, founded in Cologne the Central Council of ex-Muslims (ZdE) together with ten like-minded supporters. The organisation presented itself to the public on 28 February within the framework of a campaign titled "We have renounced our faith". Ahadi said that the work of the group would be aimed at influencing in politics and at supporting the freedom of speech and the indivisibility of human rights, which would often be infringed in Islam. Moreover, the ZdE wanted to give the many secular Muslims a political voice, since only a small proportion of them would be represented by the Muslim associations. According to Nur Gabbari, member of the executive board of the ZdE, numerous new members have joined the ZdE; in March, the number of members had risen to 400. Ayyub Axel Köhler, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, takes the newly founded association calmly and added that everybody had the right to found an association. Lale Akgün, member of the SPD and expert in charge of Islamic affairs, criticised the ZdE"s claim that Islam would not be compatible with human rights. This would be wrong and fuelled "Islamophobia", said Akgün.
FAZ 01.03.07 // FR 01.03.07 // NZ 02.03.07 // Politically Incorrect online 06.03.07 // Stuttgarter Nachrichten online 19.03.07

Turkish community supports women"s rights

On the occasion of the international Women"s Day, the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) has presented its "thesis on women"s policy" on 8 March 2007. It proclaims the "zero tolerance towards restrictions on the self-determination of women" as much as the strict criminal prosecution in cases of forced marriages. The TGD made a call to the religious organisations for having these thesis accepted also among their members. Kenan Kolat, chairman of the TGD, said that the oppression of women would be a problem at the men"s side, which needed to be fought every day. Berrin Aplbek, member of the executive board of the TGD, criticised that the media in Germany spread the cliché of Turkish women as being oppressed, without voice and scared. A study of the Centre for Turkish Studies has found that 50 per cent of the Turkish women in Germany in the ages between 18 and 29 are not married and many of them live in single households, i.e. without potential oppressors.
Spiegel online 08.03.07 // NN 09.03.07 // taz 09.03.07

Federal Administrative Court: Withdrawal of refugee status of Iraqi nationals is lawful

On 20 March 2007, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig (BVerwG) decided in three test proceedings in favour of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Up to the end of 2007, the BAMF would be entitled to revoke the right on asylum of Iraqi nationals who have been recognised as refugees due to their persecution by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Three Iraqi nationals have appealed the withdrawal of their status and demanded this way the a so-called discretionary decision. The BVerwG refused the appeal by arguing that since the introduction of the immigration law in 2005, the BAMF would be obliged to revise the grounds on which the right on asylum was granted every three years and, if applicable, to replace it by a subordinate residence status. Former refugees could demand a discretionary decision not before 2008. The BAMF had justified its measures by arguing that since Hussein"s deprivation from power, there would no longer be a threat of persecution. According to Pro Asyl, the BAMF has revoked the right on asylum of about 18,000 Iraqi nationals in the past years.
Press release of BVerwG of 20.03.07 // Spiegel online 20.03.07 // FR 20.03.07 // taz 21.03.07

Rastatt/ Baden-Württemberg: Italy takes active measures against suspension of native-language classes

The Italian government in Rome has protested against the suspension of native-language classes in the city of Rastatt in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and even threatens to take legal actions before the European Court of Justice. The local council of the Rastatt, chaired by the independent Lord Mayor Klaus-Eckhard Walker, had decided in last autumn to prohibit the teaching of native-language classes in the municipal schools. In its reasoning it said that such classes would be an obstacle to integration. The Integration Commissioner of Baden-Württemberg, Ulrich Goll (FDP), supports the measure. He demanded that the money for native-language classes should be better spent for German language courses. In a meeting with Goll and the federal state"s Minister of Education and Culture, Helmut Rau (CDU), Italy"s vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Franco Danieli, demanded that the city of Rastatt should adhere to the provisions of the EU Directive of 1977. According to this Directive, children of "migrant workers" have to be taught in their native language. Goll argued that the Directive would no longer be founded due to the fact that more than 90 per cent of the children stayed in the country, i.e. they would be immigrants rather than "guest workers". The local government of Baden-Württemberg considers Rastatt an individual case and wants to offer also in future native-language classes.
FAZ 13.03.07 // FAZ 14.03.07 // FR 17.03.07

Berlin: Violence of juveniles with migration background sharply increasing

According to the Senator of the Interior of Berlin, Ehrhart Körting (SPD), violence of juveniles with a migration background has sharply increased. While the number of criminal offences committed by German juveniles would have been decreasing since 2005, the overall number of criminal offences had risen by 7 per cent. This was due to an increase of acts of violence committed by juveniles with migration background. A study of the Berlin "Federal State Commission against Violence" on the origin and motives of young criminals now focused on so-called "intensive offenders". The study findings revealed that the majority of the offenders were younger than 21 years, with 95 per cent of them being male and a total of 70 per cent having a migration background. The largest proportion is made up by male adolescents of Turkish and Arab origin. According to the study, the high propensity to violence is due to ongoing discrimination, the lack of future prospects and the wide-spread "Islamophobia", which would be all leading to integration deficits. Moreover, most of the intensive offenders would be from socially disadvantaged families. The Senator of Justice of Berlin, Gisela von der Aue (SPD), wants to encounter the problem by a stricter criminal prosecution and preventive measures: Accordingly, offenders should be penalised within shorter time and their families should bear more responsibility. Moreover, preventive measures needed to be introduced already at primary school level against the background that the propensity to violence sets in young ages already.
taz online 01.03.07 // Focus online 05.03.07 // Focus 05.03.07 // FAZ 13.03.07 // Tagesspiegel online 29.03.07 //

Pro Asyl study: Quality of asylum procedures desperate

Based on a study it commissioned, the refugee organisation Pro Asyl has criticised the quality of asylum procedures handled by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Within the study, 77 asylum procedures of Eritreans in the course of the past six years were investigated. The study came to the conclusion that the personnel of the Federal Office would show a lack of country of origin information, would infringe procedural principles, would ignore and trivialise torture and would work one-sided and unfair. The criticism is based on the decisions of administrative courts, which for example objected that the reasoning of the authority would be inconclusive or that the way how hearings are implemented would be questionable. Claudia Möbius, press officer at the BAMF said that the empirical basis of the study with an examination quota of 2.8 per cent compared to a total 2,700 asylum procedures would be too small for being suitable to draw a conclusion. The spokesman of Pro Asyl, Bernd Mesovic, said in opposition that justice would be at stake in every single case and demanded a complete revision of all decisions taken by the Federal Office. Josef Winkler, spokesman for migration policy affairs of the parliamentary group of the Green party in the German Bundestag, announced that the committee for interior policy affairs would deal with the issue.
FR 16.03.07

Asylum statistics

In March 2007, a total of 1,468 persons has submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany. The figure constitutes an increase of 13.0 per cent (+169 persons) compared to February 2007. Compared to March 2006, the number of asylum seekers has declined by 31.4 per cent (-672 persons). In March 2007, the main countries of origin were Iraq (175), Serbia (149), Turkey (132), the Russian Federation (70), followed by Vietnam (65). In this month, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 2,342 asylum applications. Ten persons (0.4 per cent) were recognised as being entitled to political asylum. Another 195 persons (8.3 per cent) were granted protection against deportation according to § 60, paragraph 1, Residence Act. The applications of 1,284 persons (54.8 per cent) have been rejected. The cases of a further 804 persons (34.4 per cent) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. due to suspensions of asylum procedures because persons have withdrawn their applications).
Press release of BMI of 05.04.07

March 2007

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