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efms Migration Report


January 2004

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EU interior ministers agree to step up efforts for a common European repatriation policy

At an informal meeting in Dublin, the interior ministers of the 15 EU member states and the ten EU accession countries have agreed to intensify European cooperation in order to step up common repatriation measures for rejected asylum seekers. The present and future EU members have decided to launch a two-year pilot scheme aimed at fostering European cooperation in carrying out deportations (e.g. joint deportations by plane) and offering reintegration programmes for migrants that have been repatriated to their home countries.

The Irish justice minister Michael McDowell, who represents the current Presidency of the EU Council, has welcomed an announcement by the EU Commission that the European Union will allocate Ç 30 million in the EU budget 2005/2006 for common European repatriation measures. Ministers have also reached agreement on setting up an EU agency for carrying out the pilot scheme; the agency is to become operative within twelve months.

Concerning the issue of common EU regulations on so-called "safe third countries", which is to be used in reviewing asylum applications, the interior ministers of EU member states have unanimously expressed their approval of such regulations, but failed to reach a consensus on the details. Ministers still disagree, for instance, on whether asylum seekers from these third countries should be expelled without any review of their petitions. An alternative would be to review their applications in fast-track procedure.

Refugee and human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Pro Asyl have expressed serious reservations about the planned third-country regulations. In the run-up to the meeting of EU ministers in Dublin, Pro Asyl has called on the German government to abandon the plan to push through the German version of the concept of safe third country in the harmonisation of EU asylum policy, which would deprive asylum seekers of any chance to have their petitions reviewed on an individual basis.
Press statement Pro Asyl 21.01.04 // FTD 22.01.04 // FR 22.01.04 // Press statement EU Presidency (www.eu2004.ie) 23.01.04 // taz 24.01.04


UN General Secretary calls on EU to liberalise immigration policy

In a speech in the European Parliament on the occasion of the annual Sacharow Award ceremony, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan has criticised European immigration policy.

Mr. Annan has urged EU member states to liberalise their immigration and asylum policies, calling on European governments to establish a "system of common procedures and shared responsibilities". Furthermore, he has expressed his support of additional opportunities for legal immigration in order to tackle the problem of human smuggling. According to Mr. Annan, an active immigration policy would be in the interest of Europeans, too, especially if the demographic trends in Europe are taken into consideration.
Handelsblatt 30.01.04 // SZ 30.01.04


UNHCR presents proposals for harmonising EU asylum law

In a speech to the EU Council of Ministers in Dublin, Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has expressed concern that the EU enlargement scheduled for May this year would confront the new EU member states with a large number of asylum applications. In his view, the enlargement could cause problems insofar as new EU members "with their insufficient resources for processing asylum applications" could be unable to cope with the expected inflow of asylum seekers.

In order to prevent these problems from happening, and in order to speed up the harmonisation of EU asylum law, Mr. Lubbers has presented a comprehensive package of proposals, which could be implemented gradually. For instance, Mr. Lubbers has recommended setting up centralised EU asylum centres, staffed with European teams of experts, for reviewing asylum applications. Under the system, recognised asylum applicants could then be distributed among EU member states according to a quota system whose details would still have to be worked out.

Lubbers has also suggested that applicants whose asylum petitions have been rejected and who have not been granted protection against deportation should be repatriated immediately after asylum procedures have been completed. For that purpose, the EU is to negotiate readmission agreements with safe source countries. In that context, Mr. Lubbers has welcomed plans for an EU pilot scheme aimed at increasing European cooperation in repatriating rejected asylum seekers (cf. above).

During the meeting with EU interior ministers, Mr. Lubbers has criticised the latest draft for an EU regulation on asylum procedure, which is to form one of the central elements of a harmonised EU asylum law. According to Mr. Lubbers, asylum seekers should be entitled to having their petitions reviewed individually. Furthermore he has argued that asylum seekers should generally - apart from a few exceptions - be permitted to stay in the country while their appeal against a rejection of their asylum petition is examined.
Press statement UNHCR 22.01.04 // taz 24.01.04


Labour migration continues to be most contentious issue in all-party talks on migration reform

The parliamentary mediation committee has adjourned further negotiations until the end of February after negotiators of government and opposition parties had once again failed to reach a compromise on the planned migration reform. According to Volker Beck, the chief negotiator for the Greens, the talks were on the brink of breaking down completely.

The most contentious issue of the negotiations continues to be labour migration: One the one hand, the opposition CDU/CSU parties insist on maintaining the general ban on recruiting labour from non-EU countries, and are strictly opposed to introducing a credit-based system of labour immigration, as proposed by the red-green government bill. Representatives of the opposition CDU/CSU parties have called these proposals "non-negotiable". Max Stadler, chief negotiator of the opposition FDP party, has called the CDU/CSU style of negotiating "tougher and more uncompromising than ever before". Eventually, after some hesitation, CDU and CSU have agreed to set up a smaller negotiating committee, comprising three members each of the government parties and the CDU/CSU opposition parties, and one additional representative of the FDP.

In response to the opposition to the credit-based system of labour immigration, the chief negotiators of the governing SPD party have expressed their willingness to compromise on the planned points system for admitting labour migrants. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) and the SPD interior policy expert Dieter Wiefelspütz, both of whom are representing their party in the negotiating committee, have both indicated that they will not allow the migration reform to fail on account of the planned points system. However, they have insisted that the opposition parties abandon their demands for maintaining the general ban on recruiting labour from non-EU countries.

Representatives of the Greens, e.g. chairman Reinhard Bütikofer and legal policy expert Volker Beck, on the other hand, have emphasised that the proposals for labour migration constitute a key element of the government migration bill. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament, has pointed out that the government parties could pass the majority of the planned regulations without the approval and co-operation of the opposition parties. Mr. Schily, however, has criticised these threats, emphasising that migration reform has to be based on a "broad consensus".
FR 17.01.04 // FTD 19.01.04 // FR 20.01.04 // Welt 20.01.04 // SZ 24.01.04 // FR 26.01.04 // Handelsblatt 26.01.04 // Welt 27.01.04 // SZ 30.01.04


Migration Report 2003 reports decrease in net migration inflows

The latest edition of the annual migration report has been presented by Marieluise Beck (Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees und Integration. One key finding of the report is that net migration inflows to Germany have decreased in 2002, with a total of 843,000 migration inflows (658,000 or 78 % of them being non-Germans) and 623,000 migration outflows (506,000 or 81 % of them being non-Germans). Entries and departures taken together result in net migration inflows of +219,000 persons. In 2001, net migration inflows had still amounted to +273.000 people. According to Ms. Beck, the migration figures indicate "high levels of mobility of both Germans and non-Germans" and prove that Germany is "a country of immigration as well as a country of emigration".

The migration report also shows that registered inflows of seasonal workers - who receive a limited work permit for a duration of up to three months - have been increasing steadily since 1994, reaching a total of 307,000 entries in 2002. Migration inflows of spouses and family members of third-country non-German residents have also increased (2002: 85,305 people), similar to inflows of non-German university students (approximately 58,500 people). On the other hand, migration inflows of asylum seekers (2002: 71,127 people) and ethnic German immigrants or Spätaussiedler (91,416 people) have both fallen significantly.

In her presentation of the annual migration report, Marieluise Beck has emphasised that recent statistics provide no justification for a "heated migration debate". According to migration expert Friedrich Heckmann, the director of the research institute that has compiled the Migration Report, the EU enlargement in 2003 will not lead to large-scale migration inflows over the next seven years either.
Press Statement Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees und Integration 16.01.04 // FR 17.01.04 // SZ 17.01.04


Administrative court: Muslim girls cannot be exempted from sex-education lessons

The Hamburg administrative court has ruled that female Muslim students cannot be exempted from sex-education lessons at school. In the underlying case, a Turkish mother of two 14- and 15-year old girls had requested that her daughters be exempted from sex-education lessons. When school administrators rejected her request, the woman appealed to the local administrative court. In her appeal, she argued that her daughters would not need any sex-education lessons since, according to Islamic rules, sex may only be practised by married couples. In addition, she stated that the sex-education lessons would create a crisis of conscience for her daughters.

Judges at the Hamburg-based administrative court have rejected her appeal, stating that state school-laws make sex-education lessons compulsory for all pupils. Consequently, parents have no say in the matter. The court has also explained that even though parents are free to decide whether and in which form to educate their children about sexual matters, the topic does still have social relevance "over and above the private sphere of families". Consequently, sex education at school is in the public interest, and, furthermore, any exemption for religious or other reasons would also foster "feelings of separateness" and thus counteract integration.

Muslim and Turkish organisations have welcomed the ruling. Ali Gülcek, General Secretary of the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB), has expressed the view that all students have to attend sex-education lessons if such lessons are laid down in school law. Ahmet Yazici, deputy chairman of the Islamic Communities in Northern Germany, has shared this view, stating that Islam does not justify the "creation of parallel laws". Nadeem Elyas, President of the Central Council of Muslim in Germany, has also welcomed the court ruling, and even Oguz Ücüncü, General Secretary of the conservative Islamist organisation Mili Görüs (IGMG), has not rejected the ruling. However, Mr. Ücüncü has pointed out that sexual ethics should have no place at all in public education. (Ref: 15 VG 5827/2003)
taz 20.01.04 // Spiegel online 21.01.04 // taz 21.01.04 // Welt 21.01.04


Federal Administrative Court: change of religion can justify protection for asylum seekers

The Leipzig-based Federal Administrative Court has ruled that if an asylum seeker changes his religious affiliation during asylum procedure, this can have an impact on the review of his asylum petition. In the underlying case, an Iranian refugee, who had entered Germany in 1996 and converted to Protestantism while his petition has still been in the review process, has appealed against the rejection of his asylum petition by the Upper Administrative Court in Bautzen. Judges in Bautzen had decided that his conversion to Protestantism would not pose a danger for the petitioner if he returned to Iran, as he could practise his new religion there inconspicuously.

The Federal Administrative Court has repealed this decision, ruling that, in accordance with the jurisdiction of the Federal Constitutional Court, the practise of one's religion can be relevant for an asylum decision if the applicant's home country does not guarantee the so-called "religious subsistence level". According to the court, this subsistence level comprises the declaration of one's belief, prayer and non-public church services, but not attending public church services. The Federal Administrative Court has resubmitted the case to the Upper Administrative Court in Bautzen, in order to establish "what the religious subsistence level includes in the case of the petitioner", and whether he can practise his religion without risk in Iran. (BVerwG 1 C 9.03)
Press statement BVerwG 20.01.04 // FR 21.01.04


Asylum statistics

In January 2004, a total of 3,767 applicants have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, which constitutes an increase of 351 people (+10.3 %) over December 2003, but a considerable decrease of 2,357 people (-38.5 %) over January 2003. In January 2004, the main countries of origin were Turkey (493), Serbia and Montenegro (328), and the Russian Federation (259), followed by Iran (184) and Azerbaijan (158).

In January 2004, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has reviewed the petitions of 6,815 asylum seekers, 119 (1.7 %) of whom have been recognised as entitled to political asylum. A further 133 applicants (2.0 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act ( AuslG). The applications of 4,339 people (63.7 %) have been rejected. The cases of the remaining 2,224 people (32.6 %) have been closed for other reasons, for example because applicants have withdrawn their petitions.
Press statement BMI 08.02.04


January 2004

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