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efms Migration Report


November 2002

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EU-Interior Ministers face uphill task in harmonising asylum law

At a council meeting in Brussels, EU interior ministers were unable to reach an agreement on common minimum standards for asylum procedures. Further meetings have been scheduled for December in order to reach a consensus on asylum seekers' residence, education and family migration entitlements. In response to British and German demands, the issues of labour market access and work permits for asylum applicants will remain part of national legislation, i.e. are not to be regulated by EU institutions.

Ministers were also unable to agree on how long member states are entitled to send back asylum applicants to the EU country through which applicants had first entered the EU. Whereas southern EU member states favour transferring responsibility to the country an asylum seeker is currently resident of, other countries, above all France and Germany, have demanded extended periods for re-transferring asylum applicants to the original receiving countries.

Nevertheless, interior ministers took a further step towards a harmonised EU definition for "refugee". A draft for a respective EU guideline calls on EU member states to extend protection to refugees that have been subject to non-governmental prosecution. Furthermore, ministers have reached a consensus on prosecuting human traffickers. The council has decided that human traffickers that are involved in organised crime or put the life of illegal immigrants at risk face a minimum prison sentence of eight years; convicted third-country nationals also face deportation. Further regulations include a common definition for aiding and abetting illegal entry and transit.

The council of ministers has also approved of an EU programme for repatriating rejected asylum applicants. Under the initiative, member states will e.g. co-operate in chartering flights that will return asylum seekers to their home countries. In a related issue, EU interior ministers also plan to begin with the repatriation of Afghan refugees in spring 2003. The initiative, which was presented by the Danish government chairing the council meeting, emphasises the voluntary return of refugees, but also allows forced repatriation. The repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan, and the provision -"if feasible"- of vocational training in their home country is to be organised by the EU, which has earmarked a sum of approximately Ç 10m for this purpose.
dpa 28.11.02 // FR 28.11.02 // SZ 28.11.02 // FAZ 29.11.002 // SZ 29.11.02 // FR 30.11.02 // taz 30.11.02


German-Albanian treaty on repatriating foreign nationals without residence entitlements

Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) and his Albanian counterpart Luan Rama have signed a bilateral agreement on repatriating foreign nationals without residence entitlements. Under the agreement, Germany will in future have the possibility to repatriate to Albania not only Albanian nationals, but also third-country nationals who have been granted an Albanian visa or residence permit or who have entered Germany illegally via Albania.

The German interior minister has stated that the repatriation agreement marks an important step in the fight against illegal migration. In September, Mr. Schily had signed a similar treaty with the government of Yugoslavia.
Press Statement BMI 18.11.02


Federal Government presents draft for executive decrees implementing new migration law

The red-green government coalition has presented two drafts for executive decrees implementing the new migration law. One draft concerns legal details of issuing visas, registering with local authorities and administrative fees. In addition, it also includes administrative guidelines for dealing with refugees that have been granted a toleration certificate.

The second draft regulates details of the planned integration courses, in particular their content, structure and financing. According to these regulations, the federal and state governments will each finance 50% of the language courses, whereas the federal government will be solely responsible for financing the orientation courses. The decree also stipulates that participants have to pay Ç1 for each lesson they attend, with exceptions permitted in cases of hardship. Both decrees can only take effect if they are passed by both houses of parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The government plans to complete the legislative process until the end of the year.

In the meantime, there have been several calls for delaying the implementation of the new migration act. Both the Deutsche Städtetag (congress of municipal authorities) and the Federal Association of Local Authorities have warned the government against implementing the law as early as 1st January 2003. In their view, the implementation should be deferred until July 2003, as many local authorities for foreign residents will not be able to implement the amendments until the beginning of 2003, due to a lack of funding and staff. The new law will transfer additional responsibilities to local authorities who will in future be responsible for issuing both residence and work permits.
dpa 06.11.02 // FAZ 07.11.02 // FR 07.11.02 // SZ 09.11.02 // NN 12.11.02


Speculations concerning constitutional court ruling on migration law

While the Federal Constitutional Court is carrying out its review of the new migration law, following an appeal by six states with a CDU/CSU-led government, public debate is rife with speculations about the court's decision. A court spokesperson has rejected reports which claim that a majority of five out of eight judges of the court's second chamber consider the appeal as justified and plan to declare the migration law void; court representatives have emphasised that deliberations have not yet been concluded.

Erwin Huber (CSU), head of the Bavarian prime minister's office, has accused the Chancellery in Berlin of "leaking" information about the possible outcome of the constitutional review in order to exert pressure on the court. The federal government, on the other hand, has rejected these allegations as "completely absurd". Dieter Wiefelspütz (SPD) and Volker Beck (Greens), the interior policy spokespersons of the governing parties at the federal level, have refused to comment on the upcoming ruling by the constitutional court.

Meanwhile Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party, has underlined the intention of his party, in case the migration law is declared void by the constitutional court, to co-operate with the government in order to pass a law that fosters integration. He promised that his party would lend its support if the red-green coalition introduced an integration bill, provided that the following conditions are fulfilled: the bill has to stipulate that participation in integration courses is obligatory, and that migrants refusing to participate in the courses will be sanctioned. In addition, Mr. Bosbach has also demanded that courses should be offered not only to newcomers, but also to other foreign residents. Finally, he called on the federal government to shoulder the ensuing financial burden. The SPD has rejected this offer by the opposition. Mr. Wiefelspütz (SPD) has made it clear that his party will oppose all efforts to pass a separate integration law.
BZ 07.11.02 // dpa 07.11.02 // FAZ 07.11.02 // SZ 07.11.02 // FAZ 08.11.02 // FR 08.11.02 // SZ 08.11.02 // Welt 08.11.02


Federal Government announces plans to sign a treaty with Central Jewish Council.

The federal government and the German Central Jewish Council have announced plans to sign a treaty that will create a more solid basis for their relations. In this context, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) has also promised that he will triple government subsidies for the Jewish council, raising them to Ç 3m per year.

Paul Spiegel, chairman of the Central Jewish Council, has called the agreement "a milestone for Jewish life in Germany". For one, the increased subsidies will enable the council to direct additional resources to the integration of Jewish immigrants. For another, it is proof of the fact that, in the words of Mr. Spiegel, the federal government does not only acknowledge an "active Jewish life" in Germany, but is also willing to support it actively.
Federal Ministry of the Interior press statement 14.11.02 // Tagesspiegel 15.11.02 // SZ 16.11.02


Demands to grant permanent residence status to refugees that have been long-time residents of Germany

In the run-up to the Conference of German Interior Ministers in early December, there have been demands to grant a permanent residence status to refugees that have been long-time residents of Germany. An alliance formed by human rights organisations, the Federal Foreigners Council, the German Association of Trade Unions and the Lutheran Church have called on interior ministers to grant unlimited residence permits to all refugees that have been residents of Germany for five or more years. A total of 150,000 refugees who currently live in Germany without a secure residence status would profit from such an amendment. In addition, the organisations demand that the proposed five-year waiting period should be shortened to three years for families, and to two years for unaccompanied minors.

Another group profiting from this amendment would be at least 20,000 Romany people who live in Germany as refugees. Since April, several hundred Romany refugees have organised regular demonstrations against deportations to Yugoslavia and the Kosovo, calling on the government to grant them a permanent residence status.

Following a demonstration in Berlin where 30 Romany people occupied PDS party headquarters, Berlin Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting (SPD) has committed himself to working for a solution that would allow Romany, Sinti and Ashkali families that have been long-term residents of Germany to stay here permanently. However, Mr. Körting has made it clear that permanent residence permits will not be granted to all Romany residents facing deportation to Yugoslavia.

In September, the federal government has signed a repatriation treaty with Yugoslavia which has made it easier to deport Romany people. Whereas the Federal Interior Ministry is of the opinion that refugees returning to Yugoslavia face no risk to "life and limb", a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concerns, as ethnic minorities like the Romany people often face discrimination and "considerable disadvantages" in Yugoslavia.
FR 04.11.02 // SZ 13.11.02 // FR 19.11.02 // FR 21.11.02 // Press statement Pro Asyl 28.11.02 // FR 29.11.02


Asylum statistics

Asylum application figures have continued to decrease in November. The number of persons submitting a petition for political asylum in Germany has fallen to 5,510 in November, a decrease by 16.1% over the previous month. Compared to November 2001, respective figures have fallen by as much as 31.2% (- 2,496 applicants). During the first eleven months of 2002, respective figures have decreased by 19.8%, or 16,404 persons, over the same period of the previous year. In November, applicants' main countries of origin were Iraq (707), Turkey (697) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (523), followed by the Russian Federation (366) and India (253).

The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has decided the case of 9,669 persons in November; 179 (1.8%) of them have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. An additional 2.5% (241 persons) have been recognised as protected against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Aliens Act ("semi-asylum status"). The applications of 6,571 persons (68.0%) have been rejected; however, 130 of them have been granted protection against deportation according to §53 Aliens Act.
dpa 05.12.02 // Press statement BMI 05.12.02


November 2002

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