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efms Migration Report

October 2003

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EU interior ministers debate proposals on common EU immigration quotas

At an informal meeting of EU interior ministers in Rome, participants have discussed possibilities of tackling illegal migration inflows into EU member states. Giuseppe Pisanu, the Italian interior minister, has suggested making additional offers for legal immigration in return for increased efforts by source countries to reduce illegal immigration. In order to achieve this aim, Mr. Pisanu has called for negotiations with migrants" countries of origin on immigration quotas. EU interior ministers have agreed to request the European Commission to compile a study on the possible effects of such immigration quotas. The European Commission is to present its results until May 2004.

Antonio Vitorino, the EU Commissioner for Interior and Justice Policy, as well as Romano Prodi, President of the EU Commission, have expressed their support for the immigration quota proposals. Vitorino has stated that theses quota regulations could be helpful in the negotiations with migrants" home countries on tackling illegal immigration. At the same time, the Italian Interior Minister and his German counterpart Otto Schily (SPD) have emphasised that each EU member state should retain the right to decide independently on the number of immigrants it is willing to admit. In Mr. Schily"s view, quota regulations can therefore only constitute possible upper limits for migration inflows.

In a speech before the European Parliament, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister and current President of the EU Council, has presented a combined approach to fighting illegal immigration: One the one hand, illegal immigration should be tackled by intensifying European cooperation in border checks. On the other hand, EU member states should also create new opportunities for legal migration to the European Union by quota regulations.
FR 13.09.03 // 02.10.03 // dpa 22.10.03 // NZZ 23.10.03 // SZ 23.10.03 // Handelsblatt 24.10.03

EU interior ministers want to speed up asylum procedure by introducing a common list of "safe countries of origin"

At an official meeting in Brussels, EU interior ministers have agreed to request the EU Commission to compile a list of so-called "safe countries of origin", in an effort to speed up asylum procedure for refugees. The list could help to speed up the review of asylum petitions by migrants from countries categorised as safe. However, Giuseppe Pisanu, the Italian interior minister, has stressed that all asylum petitions will still be reviewed individually. The common EU list of safe countries is to constitute a "minimum requirement", which EU member states are entitled to expand by adding further countries. The German Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has welcomed the proposal to introduce such a concept in the EU asylum policy.

In a related matter, however, EU interior ministers have so far been unable to reach a consensus on a second list of safe third countries to which rejected asylum seekers could be deported. The governments of Sweden and Finland in particular have expressed concern that refugees could be deported to third countries where asylum procedures are not in accordance with European legal standards. Consequently, these third countries could deport refugees to their home countries even in hardship cases. The UNHCR and ECRE, the European umbrella organisation of 78 refugee support groups, have expressed similar concerns.
dpa 01.10.03 // FAZ 02.10.03 // FR online 04.10.03 // taz 05.10.03

Parliamentary conference committee begins negotiations on Migration Act

The parliamentary conference committee, which has been called upon to work out a compromise between the two houses of the federal parliament on migration reform, has set up a twenty- member sub-committee chaired by Saarland Premier Peter Müller (CDU). The migration sub-committee has been commissioned to present proposals for a compromise on migration reform until the end of the year. In its first meeting, the sub-committee has discussed several particularly contentious issues, such as the admission of refugees for humanitarian reasons and deportation procedure.

In the run-up to the first round of negotiations, Mr. Müller has reiterated the position of the opposition CDU/CSU parties, demanding that immigration for humanitarian reasons be strictly limited to the areas defined by the Geneva Convention on Refugees. In addition, opposition parties want to ensure that hardship regulations do not create further incentives for migrating to Germany or obstruct the administration of foreign-resident law. According to Günther Beckstein (CSU), the Bavarian Interior Minister, the proposals of the red-green government coalition are far from fulfilling these criteria.

Up to now, no results of this first round of negotiations in the parliamentary conference committee have been made public. Volker Beck, secretary of the Green parliamentary party, has called the talks "extremely difficult", as representatives of the government coalition and the opposition parties have positions that are "widely apart". Even though all participants praised the serious and non-polemic atmosphere at the negotiations, observers continue to be sceptical about the prospects of reaching an agreement between the coalition and opposition parties.

Meanwhile, Marieluise Beck (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration, has called on all members of the parliamentary conference committee to create a legal basis for the about 220,000 non-German residents that have been issued with a so-called "toleration certificate". In the same vein, State Commissioners for Foreign Resident Affairs and Integration have demanded, in a majority vote at their autumn conference in Stuttgart, that non-German residents who have been granted repeated toleration certificates for several years should be granted a secure residence status, provided they fulfil integration criteria.
dpa 10.10.03 // dpa 24.10.03 // Stuttgarter Zeitung 24.10.03 // SZ 24.10.03 // Welt 24.10.03 // FR 25.10.03 // FAZ 27.10.03 // Welt 27.10.03

No nation-wide consensus on legal regulations concerning Muslim teachers wearing headscarves at work

Following the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court on whether female Muslim teachers should be allowed to wear headscarves during work at public schools, state governments, which have been commissioned by the court to present their own proposals, have been unable to agree on common nation-wide regulations. Two efforts to reach a consensus, one at the Conference of Culture Ministers (KMK), the other at the autumn conference of State Commissioners for Foreign Resident Affairs and Integration in Stuttgart, have failed, effectively ruling out the possibility of nation-wide regulations on this matter.

The CDU/CSU-led state governments of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saarland, as well as the SPD-led governments in Berlin and Brandenburg, have announced plans to present state laws that would prevent Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves during classes.

Annette Schavan (CDU), the Baden-Württemberg Minister for Cultural Affairs/Education, has already presented an amendment of the education act banning headscarves in state schools. In a statement, Mrs. Schavan has expressed the view that such a ban is justified due to the fact that wearing a headscarf is not only a religious Muslim symbol, but also a "political sign and symbol of cultural separation".

In the state of Hesse, CDU parliamentary leader Josef Jung has announced plans to pass a state law that would ban the wearing of headscarves not only for teachers at state school, but also for all civil servants. Similar plans are being discussed in Saarland and Berlin.

Apart from Bremen, which has so far been unable to reach a consensus, all other state governments have expressed the view that there is no need for further legislation on this matter. Doris Ahnen (SPD), the Minister for Cultural Affairs/Education in Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, has stated that existing legislation, e.g. disciplinary law for public-sector workers, is sufficient to maintain the principle of neutrality in state education. Marieluise Beck (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration, has also rejected proposals for passing a general ban of wearing headscarves during work at state schools.

The debate has also raised a related issue, i.e. the question of how to deal with other religious symbols in state schools. Whereas state governments in Berlin and Bremen plan to enforce a strict separation between state and religion by banning all conspicuous religious symbols in schools, other state governments, for example in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Lower Saxony, oppose placing Christian and Muslim symbols at the same level. According to Mrs. Schavan, fostering and expressing Christian values and symbols constitutes one of the "educational goals set by the state constitution of Baden-Württemberg".
Spiegel online 03.10.03 // FAZ 05.10.03 // KMK-Pressemitteilung 10.10.03 // SZ 13.10.03 // dpa 16.10.03 // FR 16.10.03 // Spiegel 20.10.03 // Stuttgarter Zeitung 24.10.03 // FR 29.10.03

Lower Saxony plans stricter deportation procedures

Uwe Schünemann (CDU), the Lower Saxony interior minister, has announced plans to implement stricter deportation rules for foreign nationals who have not been granted a residence entitlement of any form. In order to achieve this aim, the state government will repeal a decree, passed in 1995, which has obliged authorities to inform foreign nationals that their deportation is imminent. According to Mr. Schünemann, this information has in many cases been abused by the foreign nationals concerned to go underground or to provide medical certificates posing obstacles to their deportation. In future, the state government plans to deport respective foreign nationals without prior notification.

In addition, Mr. Schünemann wants to present proposals at the next meeting of the Conference of State Interior Ministers which would ban foreign nationals who resist their deportation by means of protest or physical violence from re-entering Germany at a later date. The state government of Lower Saxony also supports a Bavarian initiative which would declare "acts of protest and resistance by third parties against deportations" (e.g. by refugee support organisations) illegal; such behaviour is to be defined as a criminal offence under the Foreigners Act.

Representatives of the SPD and Greens, the opposition parties in Lower Saxony, as well as the Lower Saxony Refugee Council, have rejected Mr. Schünemann"s plans.
dpa 27.10.03 // FR 28.10.03 // taz 28.10.03

Asylum statistics

In October 2003, a total of 4,343 persons have submitted petitions for political asylum in Germany. The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has thus registered a decrease by 1.7 % (- 75 persons) over the previous month, and by 33.9 % (-2,225 persons) over October 2002.

During the first ten months of 2003, a total of 43,331 persons have applied for political asylum in Germany, compared with 60,808 applicants during the first ten months of last year.

In October 2003, asylum seekers" main countries of origin were Turkey (555), Serbia and Montenegro (467) and the Russian Federation (318), followed by Vietnam (187) and Iran (186).

In October, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on the petitions of 7,356 applicants, 127 (1.7 %) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum according to the Basic Law, Germany"s constitution.

A further 83 persons (1.1 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act (AuslG). The petitions of 5,000 persons (68.0 %) have been rejected, with 116 of them being granted a stay of deportation according to §53 Foreigners Act (AuslG). The cases of a further 2,146 persons (29.2 %) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. because applicants have withdrawn their asylum petitions).
Pressemitteilung BMI 06.11.03

October 2003

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