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efms Migration Report

January 2007

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EU: Informal EU ministerial meeting on immigration policy

From 14 to 16 January 2007, an informal ministerial meeting of the European Union (EU) was held in Dresden within the framework of the German EU presidency. On this occasion, the ministers responsible for Justice and Home Affairs also discussed migration policy issues. Already at the beginning of the meeting the possibilities of harmonising integration measures on EU level were discussed. For that purpose, the EU Commission plans to provide funds for an "integration fund" to promote the exchange of measures expected to offer successful approaches. In the context of "circulatory migration", EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini announced the start of initial negotiations on repatriation agreements with potential partners such as Mali, Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. Against the background that the migration season would start in April, Frattini also wanted to strengthen the border control agency Frontex by April. In the run-up of the meeting, Frattini talked about plans to introduce a "European Greencard" for highly skilled persons, which should allow freedom of movement in the entire EU area. The German government in Berlin expressed itself against the idea of an EU-wide Greencard arguing that Germany had already gained its own experiences with a Greencard scheme and was therefore of the opinion that, from the German point of view, there was no need for an European initiative, said a spokesman of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). Regarding the harmonisation of integration measures, the Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), remarked sceptically that there would be such fundamental discrepancies between the countries that it would be questionable if and to which extent the measures could be standardised. Frattini, however, assured the participants that the "subsidiary principle" would further be maintained, which means that the EU would act only in those cases where it could be more efficient than the national states themselves.
Die Welt 10.01.07 // Handelsblatt 12.01.07 // taz 16.01.07 // Press release of the BMI 16.01.07 // FR 17.01.07

Foreigners" Law: Agreement of CDU and SPD on principles is on touch and go

In a recent statement, the Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ) has rejected individual parts of the draft bill to amend the Asylum and Residence Laws that had been presented by the Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU). The BMJ criticised inter alia that the requirement of German language skills for the reunification of spouses would not be compatible with the protection of marriages provided for by the German Basic Law. The introduction of fines to be paid by migrants who refuse to attend an integration course was rejected in its entirety. Moreover, the BMJ demanded that in future the victims of specific crimes should be given the opportunity to obtain a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. The statement of the BMJ nurtured suspicions among the Union parties that the SPD wanted to loosen the compromise on principles that had been reached before. The vice-chairman of the Union parties, Wolfgang Bosbach, said that he believed constitutional arguments would be brought forward only to water down the agreement on political level.
Der Spiegel 29.01.07

Federal Government to allow more migrants to benefit from Federal Education Support Act payments

On the occasion of a conference on the foreigners" law held in the Hohenheim district of Stuttgart on 27 January 2007, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), presented a draft bill which is to allow more immigrants in Germany to receive benefits under the Federal Education Support Act (BAföG). Accordingly, foreign students, school students and apprentices residing in Germany should be able to benefit from state support payments even if they have only a temporary residence permit. According to Böhmer, many foreigners could currently not start an apprenticeship due to the fact that they do not receive support payments under the BAföG scheme. Moreover, some would even prefer to be paid unemployment benefits instead of doing an apprenticeship as the payments would be sometimes higher than the apprenticeship remunerations. For migrants, the law would remove an important obstacle to access education, said Böhmer. The Federal Minister of Education, Anette Schavan (CDU), wants to introduce the draft bill to the cabinet by mid-February.
SZ 29.01.07

Böhmer wants migrants to be taken more into consideration in official statistics

According to the Minister of State for Integration, Maria Böhmer (CDU), official statistics should contain more differentiated data on migrants. At the moment, the statistics only distinguish between German and foreign nationals. In order to be able to take targeted measures for a better integration of foreigners, transparent data would be needed to reflect the societal realities, said Böhmer. She said that the Federal Statistical Office would already undertake efforts to improve the data basis.
Federal Government online 31.01.07

Federal Government presents draft bill to amend the Federal Expellees Act

By presenting this draft bill to amend the Federal Expellees Act, the Federal Government met the need of adapting the Act due to the political developments. Firstly, the draft bill foresees to delete Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the corresponding paragraph of the Expellees Act following the enlargement of the European Union and the EU accession of these countries. Secondly, problems in the administrative practice are to be solved and provisions should be introduced to prevent criminals from entering the country. Moreover, the draft bill foresees as formal requirement for the admission in Germany that the person in question is able to "hold a simple conversation in German". New provisions are also foreseen for the entire area of support for and the requirements regarding the integration in Germany, the membership and the inflow of family members as well as rules regulating the provision of benefits.
Das Parlament 22.01.07 // (16/4017)

Integration courses: Considered widely positive in the public opinion

Despite some weak points, which were revealed by an expertise on state-run integration courses commissioned by Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), the public opinion about the courses seems to be widely positive. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the integration courses have been received well among the migrants in Germany. Schäuble said that the integration courses had closed gaps and overcome deficiencies in the previous language support for immigrants and would clearly constitute a qualitative improvement in the integration policy. A considerable deficiency is the low participation in the final exams, which had been taken by only 40 per cent of the participants in 2006. The Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU), said that this would be due to the weak self-assessment of the course participants with regard to the skills they had attained. Therefore, she called for improving the efficiency of the courses. However, also the fear of course participants of a reduction of the state support benefits when failing the tests twice would be a reason for the low participation figures, said Omid Nouripour, MoP of the Green Party.
Press release of the Federal Ministry of the Interior 17.01.07 // taz 19.01.07 // FR 29.01.07

Right-wing extremism: New group worries Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution

A new neo-Nazi group, which calls itself "Autonome Nationalisten" (autonomous nationalists), is increasingly catching the attention of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and of members of the extremist scene. One of the "novelties" this group features is that it delimits itself from traditional right-wing extremist forms of organisation despite being neo-Nazi and that it copies instead anti-fascist left-wing groups in its appearance. They are gathering for instance in so-called "black blocks" in order to provoke both the police and left-wing extremists but also their own supporters by committing excesses of violence. Their declared objective would be to escape from the eternal "black-white-red-coloured hyper-Germanness" and to tread new paths. Their slogan is: "Soon, there will be no longer right or left! Then, there will be instead only the system and its enemies!" The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution talks about a phenomenon that needs to be taken seriously. In particular, it would be more and more difficult to distinguish the estranged sides.
FR 05.01.07

Parishes currently grant asylum to 74 persons in Germany

Seventy-four persons whose asylum applications have been refused by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees are currently granted a church asylum in Germany. Parishes take in refugees without residence permits who are threatened in their home countries by torture or death or by "unacceptable social hardship cases". The managing director of the federal ecumenical work group for church asylum, Verena Mittermaier, said that about 80 per cent of the cases where church asylum is granted would end well for the persons affected. Often it would be possible to provide evidence that decisions taken by authorities needed revision and that a new asylum procedure would be promising.
NN 26.01.07

Federal Constitutional Court: Withdrawal of German citizenship is lawful

According to a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) published on 10 January 2007, the German passport of naturalised foreigners may be withdrawn if they take on again their former citizenship. The plaintiff had invoked an article of the German Basic Law which in principle prohibits the withdrawal of the German citizenship. The judges argued that the new Citizenship Law introduced in 2000 would foresee a loss of the German citizenship if another foreign nationality is acquired upon a person"s own request. The ruling of the BVerfG could have consequences for about 50,000 persons in Germany who illegally have two nationalities. The reproach of Kenan Kolats, chairman of the Turkish communities in Germany, the persons affected would be left without secure residence status due to the ruling was contradicted by the Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Maria Böhmer (CDU). The residence status of the majority of the persons affected would be meanwhile secure again and she added that besides it would be in principle possible to regain the lost citizenship.
Press release of the Federal Constitutional Court of 10.01.07 // Press release of the Office of the Federal President of 11.01.07 // SZ 11.01.07

Lower Saxony: Initiative of the upper house of the German parliament to facilitate the immigration of highly skilled workers

The Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann (CDU), has called for a facilitation of the immigration of qualified foreigners to Germany. He considers too high the current obstacles requiring an annual income of 85,500 euros or an investment of self-employed persons of 1 million euros and, at the same time, the creation of a minimum of 10 work places. In February, he wants to present a draft bill to the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, which foresees the reduction of the minimum annual income to 64,125 euros, to cut the sum to be invested to 25,000 euros and to downsize the number of workplaces to be created to a total of five. The plans of Schünemann are supported by the coalition partner, the FDP, by representatives of the economy as well as by the parliamentary group of the CDU in the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Also the Integration Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet (CDU), has expressed himself in favour of facilitating the immigration of skilled workers and therefore welcomed the initiative of Lower Saxony brought to the Bundesrat. According to Laschet, Germany, however, needed not only top earners but also skilled personnel on lower income levels as for example in the area of domestic health care services. The Federal Labour Minister, Franz Müntefering (SPD), however, expressed himself in favour of qualifying unemployed Germans instead of recruiting new migrants.
FAZ 05.01.07 // FTD 22.01.07

New study course for migrants at the University of Oldenburg

Since the winter semester 2006/2007, the Carl-Ossietzky University of Oldenburg offers a new study course, which is denominated "Intercultural Education and Counselling". This way, highly skilled migrants, whose degrees are not recognised in Germany, are to be given the opportunity to take up qualified professions. The study course, which is reduced to four semesters, is directed to immigrants who have a permanent residence status and who already have studied pedagogic subjects at the universities in their countries of origin and who can provide evidence of two years of practical work experience. The students graduate from this course with the internationally recognised Bachelor of Arts degree. The new study course offer is supported by the EU Refugee Fund and by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). So far, the total number of course places is limited to twenty-four students despite a huge demand. Professor Dr. Rolf Meinhart, head of the study course, said that the graduates would be particularly be able to hold integration courses as they are stipulated by the Immigration Act. But also other professions requiring the knowledge of different languages and cultures would be predestined areas of work. Meinhardt stressed that a migration background would be an asset that could be employed by immigrants and also an asset the German society would be in urgent need of.
FR 16.01.07 // Press release of Carl-Ossietzky University Oldenburg 12.12.06

Bavarian Constitutional Court confirms headscarf-ban on teachers

On 15 January 2007, the Bavarian Constitutional Court dismissed a popular action of the Islamic religious community of Berlin against the headscarf-ban at schools. The underlying act prohibits teachers to wear external symbols and clothes "that could be interpreted as an expression of attitudes or opinions not compatible with constitutional basic values and educational goals foreseen by the constitution, including Christian and occidental educational and cultural values." (Cf. Press release of the Bavarian Constitutional Court). The plaintiff had argued that the act would constitute an infringement of the religious freedom of Muslims and of the principle of equality. After all, Catholic nuns would be also allowed to wear habits while teaching at school. According to the opinion of the judges of the Constitutional Court, the Bavarian state parliament has made a permissible balancing of two concurrent objects of legal protection. They argued that even tough the act encroaches upon the religious freedom of teachers, the credible conveying of constitutional basic values would have to be given more importance. The wearing of nun habits would be allowed as the use of such clothes would be compatible with the basic values of the constitution. The lawyer representing the Muslim religious community, Jürgen Weyer, announced that individual cases could be even brought before the highest German court, the Federal Constitutional Court.
Press release of the Bavarian Constitutional Court of 15.01.07 // FR 16.01.07 // SZ 16.01.07 // Das Parlament 22.01.07

Annual asylum statistics 2006

In 2006, the number of asylum applicants in Germany has considerably decreased. In the past year, a total of 21,029 asylum applications were filed, which is 27.3 per cent (-7,885 persons) below the figure of the previous year 2005. The main countries of origin in 2006 were Iraq (2,117), Turkey (1,949), Serbia and Montenegro (January-July) (1,828), Serbia (August-December) (1,354) followed by the Russian Federation (1,040). In 2006, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 30,759 applications. Only 0.8 per cent (251) persons were recognised, the applications of 59.8 per cent (18,384 persons) were rejected. A further 1,097 applicants (3.6 per cent) have been granted protection against deportation according to §60, paragraph 1, Residence Act. A total of 11,027 asylum applications (35.8 per cent) has been closed for other reasons.
Press release of BMI of 10.01.07

Asylum statistics

In January 2007, a total of 1,663 persons has submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany. The figure constitutes an increase of 9.7 per cent (+147 persons) compared to December 2006. Compared to January 2006, the number of asylum seekers has declined by 15.5 per cent (-306 persons). In January 2007, the main countries of origin were Serbia (243), Iraq (159), Turkey (122), the Russian Federation (88) and Vietnam (85). In January, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees decided on 2,642 asylum applications. Twenty-six persons (1.0 per cent) were recognised as being entitled to political asylum. Another 144 persons (5.4 per cent) were granted protection against deportation according to § 60, paragraph 1, Residence Act. The applications of 1,611 persons (59.2 per cent) were rejected. The cases of a further 861 persons (32.6 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 09.02.07

January 2007

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