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efms Migration Report

November 2008

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EU: Admission of Iraqi refugees adopted

At a session held in Brussels on 27 November 2008, the interior ministers of the EU Member States finally decided to admit Iraqi refugees after having postponed the decision over longer time. Before, a group of experts commissioned by the EU had examined the situation of two million refugees in Syria and Jordan to confirm reports of relief organisations on the refugees" precarious situation: according to the report, the situation of the refugees had further deteriorated as many had spent their savings and had no work permits in the host countries. The EU plans to offer not only members of religious minorities a new home but also to admit tortured, traumatised and ill Iraqis as well as single mothers and their children. With a quota of 10,000 refugees in total, however, the EU fulfils only the minimum expectations of the refugee relief organisation of the United Nations (UNHCR). According to estimates of the UNHCR, 60,000 of the two million refugees staying currently in Syria and Jordan alone could not be expected to return to Iraq. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) said that Germany would admit about 2,500 persons of Iraqi origin, above all Christians suffering from persecution. The demands of refugee relief organisations and politicians to allow the admission of Iraqi refugees in Germany already before the EU adopts a decision were refused by the Federal Government, which argued in its reasoning that the interior ministers of the federal states would only be willing to admit refugees if there was a corresponding framework decision of the EU.
FR 26.11.08 // SZ 27.11.08 // Die Welt 28.11.08 // taz 28.11.08

EU Parliament adopts introduction of Blue Card

The European Parliament (EP) decided on 4 November 2008 to introduce the Blue Card, whose granting will be subject to the fulfilment of certain minimum requirements. The residence and work permit to be valid throughout the EU is part of a comprehensive approach to control migration to the EU and intended to facilitate the settlement of highly-skilled workers from third countries within the EU. In doing so, the aim was, on the one hand, to encounter the imminent lack of highly-qualified workers in the economies of the EU Member States, and, on the other hand, to limit illegal migration by offering legal immigration opportunities. The EP defined stricter minimum requirements for being granted a Blue Card than it had been foreseen by the EU Commission: Potential immigrants either are to hold a university degree or have a labour experience of five years (EU Commission: 3 years of labour experience), be offered a job vacancy in an EU Member State and to gain a salary that is 1.7 times (EU Commission: 1.5 times) above the average annual gross income in the EU country of destination. According to the EP"s opinion, the Blue Card will be granted for a maximum of five years with a subsequent stay in the EU being allowed. The decision on the details is now up to the EU governments which intend to finally adopt the introduction of the Blue Card by the end of the year.
NZ 06.11.08 // Die Welt 21.11.08 // SZ 21.11.08

EU plans common integration policy

On 3 and 4 November 2008, the interior ministers and secretaries of state of the EU Member States met in the French city of Vichy to further discuss the EU Migration Pact in order to prepare a declaration on a common integration policy in which is foreseen to establish the common European values as basis for integration, to improve access to the labour markets and to strengthen the concept of diversity in the world of labour, to demand equal rights for women, to improve the education of children and youths and to establish an ongoing intercultural dialogue with the participation of the civil society as well as migrant organisations as core elements of a common EU integration policy. Moreover it is foreseen to strengthen the cooperation within the EU and between the Member States. According to the declaration, also the evaluation of the integration policy on EU level was of great significance. The Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), welcomed the declaration and stressed the importance of developing further common ground on European level and clear integration targets as well as instruments to evaluate integration policies. Critical comments, however, considered this political approach as an intent to pursue the objective of distinguishing between migrants that are useful for the economy and others who are "less useful".
Bundesregierung (German Federal Government) online 04.11.08 // Neues Deutschland online 14.11.08

First Catholic-Islamic Forum held in the Vatican

Following an invitation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first convention of the newly established "Catholic-Muslim Forum" was held at the Papal University of Gregoriana and in the Vatican from 4 - 6 November 2008. The inter-religious dialogue on the topic of "God"s love and brotherly love" was attended by 29 Catholic and 29 Islamic scholars. The Forum goes back to the correspondence in 2007 between the Pope and Muslim priests and scholars on the occasion of the "speech of Regensburg", which triggered off harsh criticism particularly in the Muslim world. That time, Benedict XVI had announced to arrange a conference in order to continue the Catholic-Islamic dialogue that had been existing for centuries already. While Pope Benedict underlined the common ground of both religions and the responsibilities resulting thereof as well as the mutual respect, the Washington-based Islam scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr stressed the differences between Christianity and Islam and warned of wooing one"s own religion. Nasr added, however, that Muslims and Catholics could join forces to encounter together the desecration and anti-religious forces in the modern world.
SZ 05.11.08 // Die Welt 07.11.08

The public concerned about increase in anti-Semitism

Seventy years after the "Reichsprogromnacht" ("Crystal night"), the number of anti-Semitic crimes is on the rise again and Jews in Europe increasingly feel discriminated and threatened. The president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Wjatscheslaw Moshe Kantor, said the Jews of today felt worse than after the end of the Second World War. Ten or twenty years ago, the behaviour of politicians and government in Europe today would have been unconceivable by them (members of the Jewish community). The EJC president summarized that there would be more neo-Nazis and neo-Nazi supporters than Jews and the memory of the Holocaust would more and more fade away. According the information of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), the number of crimes with an anti-Semitic background in Germany had in fact considerably increased over the first three quarters of 2008 compared to the previous year. The authorities registered a total of almost 800 of such crimes (21 of which were acts of violence), which is 81 more than in 2007. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Crystal night", the Federal Parliament adopted on 4 November 2008 a resolution demanding the fight against anti-Semitism after it had held difficult internal discussions. The resolution states that anti-Semitism is still a serious problem of the society. It gives rise to concerns that anti-Semitism could be found on all levels of the society. Often, it goes hand in hand with anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism.
Stern online 04.11.08 // SZ 05.11.08 // FR 05.11.08 // SZ 11.11.08

Settlement of backlog cases does not meet expectations

So far, the provision on the right to remain for foreigners who have been tolerated in Germany for many years, which entered into force in August 2007, has enabled not even the half of the persons affected to obtain a lasting right of residence, according to the reply of the Federal Government to a parliamentary enquiry of the Left Party. Instead of the announced 60,000 of the total of 110,000 tolerated persons, only 29,000 have so far been offered an opportunity to obtain a right to remain; 80 per cent of the residence permits, however, were granted with reservations. If the persons affected are not able to provide evidence by the end of 2009 that they are able to earn their and their families" living themselves through gainful employment, the right to remain will be withdrawn again. Ulla Jelpke (Left Party) summarised the matter saying that what the Federal Government had called a success would not be more than a mere façade.
FR 20.11.08

Third Integration Summit - progress report on National Integration Plan

For the third time, 200 participants from federal, state and municipal level as well as representatives of the civil society and migrants met in the Federal Chancellery on 6 November 2008 to hold the Integration Summit to discuss the status of integration of migrants living in Germany. Among other things, the first progress report on the National Integration Plan containing declarations of all stakeholders of the Integration Plan was presented. The National Integration Plan was introduced on the occasion of the Integration Summit in July 2007 and contains 400 voluntary commitments given by the Federal Government, federal states, municipalities and the civil society to improve the integration of immigrants into the German society. Both the Federal Integration Commissioner, Maria Böhmer (CDU), and the Federal Cabinet made a positive interim appraisal of the implementation of the National Integration Plan. Böhmer said that a large number of the voluntary commitments had been implemented already and that in addition many projects and initiatives had been initiated in the meantime. A declaration of the Federal Cabinet states that integration policy now has become a cross-sectional issue that is addressed on all levels. Moreover, the atmosphere among migrant organisations was more positive at this year"s summit than in previous years. Even though they still criticise the immigration policy, which they conceive as too restrictive, they basically support the National Integration Plan, said for example Mehmet Tanriverdi, president of the the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Migrantenverbände (Bagiv), the federation of migrant associations in Germany. At the same time, Tanriverdi made clear, that the measures contained in the Integration Plan still had not arrived where they should - at the foundations of the society such as the educational system. As regards the fight against the most urgent integration problems, politicians and migrant representatives agreed on objectives to be targeted: by 2012, all children are to be brought on a language proficiency level that allows them to successfully finish school and also the language training and support is to be further improved to this end. Another aim is to reduce the number of youths with a migration background who prematurely finish school or vocational training courses and to provide for a reliable and lasting financing of support measures for integration projects. For the time being, the Integration Summit itself will not be continued in the present form. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) rather favoured a "multi-tier dialogue", which would allow to split up of the former summit into individual conferences to address specific topics.
Bundesregierung (Federal Government) online 05.11.08 // SZ 06.11.08 // SZ 07.11.08 // FAZ 07.11.08 // BZ 07.11.08 // FR 07.11.08 // Die Welt 07.11.08

Greens elect the first German party leader with migration background

With the election of Cem Özdemir as the federal party leader of the Green Party on their party conference held in Erfurt on 15 November 2008, for the first time a German national with migration background holds the highest office of a political party. The son of Turkish immigrants who was raised in southern Germany obtained 79.2 per cent of the delegates" votes and follows Reinhard Bütikofer in his office. Before, the party conference had already confirmed the co-chairwoman Claudia Roth in her office. Filiz Demirel, member of Greens, was glad about Özdemir"s success and said the election showed that migrants in Germany had the possibilities to succeed, even though they were still disadvantaged. As regards the field of integration, Özedemir recently proposed to offer more Turkish language lessons at schools, arguing that even though German always needed to be the most important language for children living in Germany, politics also should make a contribution and allow children with a migration background to unfold their multilingualism.
Der Spiegel online 15.11.08 // Focus online 15.11.08 // BZ 17.11.08 // Der Spiegel online 24.11.08

New naturalisation test no challenge for applicants

The naturalisation test newly introduced at the beginning of September does not seem to pose a hurdle for applicants for the German citizenship. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), 98 per cent of the 9,000 participants in the tests throughout Germany over the last two months have passed the test so far. To prepare for the test, special courses had been offered at 1,000 adult education centres (VHS) throughout Germany. According to a survey among the federal states" VHS associations, the courses, however, have hardly been used. In Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Pomerania, for instance, only two courses will be offered until the end of the year; and in the cities of Munich and Bremen, there will no courses at all. To prepare for the course, a catalogue comprising the total of 310 questions, of which 33 are randomly chosen and 17 needs to be answered correctly, can be downloaded from the web site of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). Erich Zehnder, member of the evaluation commission of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and representative of the VHS state association of Rhineland Palatinate, came to the conclusion that the concept for the naturalisation test had failed saying that originally it was intended that immigrants have a look at the country in its entirety. In order to pass the test, however, it would be sufficient to only know the answers to the questions by memory. Nonetheless, Berlin"s Senator of the Interior, Erhart Körting (SPD), is of the opinion that the test fulfils its purpose saying it would be sufficient when immigrants would look into the subject matter upon filling in the questionnaires. Körting added the high success rate showed that the criticism by migrant associations about the test being a hurdle was completely beyond reality.
Die Zeit 06.11.08 // BZ 07.11.08 // taz 17.11.08

Mosque in Cologne to be built

On 7 November 2008, Cologne"s city administration issued the building licence for the disputed mosque to be built in the quarter of Ehrenfeld. The city council had taken the decision on principles in favour of the construction of the prestigious mosque on 28 August 2008 already. On the occasion of a session of the city council held before, Cologne"s mayor, Fritz Schramma (CDU), wooed the adoption of the construction contract as being a "sign for mutual acceptance" and added that the contract, for example, lays down that there will be no calls of the muezzin be heard in the quarter and that equal rights of men and women as well as language skills are to be fostered. Schramma"s own political party particularly opposed the issue of the building licence. The head of Cologne"s department for urban development, Bernd Streitberger, said that before the building licence was handed over, the city of Cologne and Ditib needed to agree on an extension contract stipulating investments to improve the infrastructure around the new mosque.
WDR online 28.08.08 // WDR online 06.11.08 // KNA 07.11.08

Asylum statistics

In November 2008, a total of 1,730 persons has submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, which is a decrease of 11.1 per cent (-217 persons) over October 2008. Compared to November 2007, the number of asylum applicants has declined by 11.4 per cent (-223 persons). The main countries of origin in November were Iraq (507), Turkey (102), Iran (97) and Afghanistan (76) followed by Vietnam (73). In November, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 1,738 asylum applications. A total of 579 persons (33.3 per cent) were recognised as refugees under the Geneva Refugee Convention. These included 8 persons (0.5 per cent) who were recognised as entitled to asylum under Art. 16a of the German Basic Law, and 571 persons (32.8 per cent) protected under § 3 of the Asylum Procedure Act in conjunction with § 60 (1) of the Residence Act. The applications of 507 persons (32.8 per cent) were rejected. The cases of a further 544 persons (31.3 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 the BMI 09.12.08

November 2008

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