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efms Migration Report

September 2003

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Parliamentary conference committee tries to reach compromise on migration reform

In the aftermath of the rejection of the government migration bill by the Bundesrat, the second chamber of parliament representing state governments, migration reform is now on the agenda of the parliamentary conference committee. At its first session, the conference committee has set up a sub-committee with representatives of state governments and of all parliamentary parties. The sub-committee is to be chaired by Peter Müller (CDU), the Premier of Saarland. Work on a compromise concerning the red-green government plans for migration reform is to be started in October.

In the preliminary stages of the negotiations, representatives of the opposition parties CDU/CSU and FDP have expressed scepticism as to the prospects of reaching a compromise with red-green government coalition. Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), speaker of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party and member of the conference sub-committee, has expressed the view that a compromise can only be reached if the government coalition is willing to accept "substantial amendments" of its proposals. Reinhold Bocklet (CSU), the Bavarian State Minister for Federal Affairs, and Max Stadler, the FDP interior policy spokesman, have both expressed scepticism by pointing out the current difficult situation on the German labour market.

Volker Beck, secretary of the Green parliamentary party and also a member of the conference sub-committee, has repeated that his party is willing to enter into "reasonable negotiations". At the same time, he has pointed out the Greens will only lend their support to a migration reform which actually improves the current legal situation.

The opposition CDU/CSU parties themselves, on the other hand, have still been unable to reach a consensus among party members concerning the reform of migration and integration law. Whereas the CDU/CSU parliamentary party has presented a list with no fewer than 138 amendments of the red-green government bill, the state government of Lower Saxony has announced an initiative by several CDU state interior ministers aimed at passing a new integration law only, i.e. a separate legislative act excluding migration reform as such. However, these proposals have already been rejected by Saarland Premier Peter Müller (CDU) and the CDU chairwoman, Angela Merkel.
dpa 22.09.03 // Financial Times Deutschland 24.09.03 // Handelsblatt 24.09.03 // SZ 24.09.03

Federal Constitutional Court: Ban of headscarves for Muslim teachers only on the basis of "clear" state legislation

In the so-called "headscarf debate", the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled by a narrow majority of five to three judges that state governments are only entitled to ban Muslim teachers from wearing a headscarf during work at state schools if the state legislature has passed a "sufficiently clear" legal foundation for the ban. The court ruling has been a partial success for Fereshta Ludin, a native Afghan woman who has been living in Germany since 1987. Mrs. Ludin, who was granted German citizenship eight years ago, had so far failed to have her appeals upheld by state courts. She graduated from university and teacher training in the state of Baden-Württemberg, but state authorities there have refused to employ her in public education due to her insistence to wear a headscarf during classes, which she justified with her religious convictions. Mrs. Ludin, who is currently teaching at a private Islamic school in Berlin, had appealed against the decision of the Baden-Württemberg state government.

As Baden-Württemberg - similar to all other German states - has not passed a respective law yet, the Constitutional Court has ruled that the state government was not entitled to exclude the plaintiff from employment in the state education system. In addition, the court has called on state governments and legislature to work out an "acceptable compromise" between "inevitably conflicting" principles: the religious freedom of teachers, the principle of religious neutrality of state education, the educational authority of parents and the "negative religious freedom" of pupils. According to the court, the state legislature, and not the executive or the judiciary, has to decide the matter.

However, a minority of three judges at the constitutional court has published a dissenting view. Emphasising the fundamental principle of neutrality and moderation in the public sector, the three judges support a ban of headscarves for Muslim teachers at state schools.

Subsequent to the court decision, state governments in Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse and Lower Saxony have announced plans to create a legal foundation for banning headscarves for teachers at state schools. The state government of North-Rhine Westphalia, on the other hand, has denied the need for such legislation, expressing the view that the wearing of headscarves during classes can be permitted after individual cases have been reviewed. State governments in Hamburg and Rhineland-Palatinate have expressed similar views. As a consequence, it seems highly unlikely that state governments will agree on common legal regulations (Ref: 2BvR 1436/02).
dpa 24.09.03 // Spiegel online 24.09.03 // NZZ 25.09.03 // Welt 26.09.03 // Focus 29.09.03 // Welt 30.09.03

Following "Kaplan Case", opposition parties have called for taking a tough line on non-German offenders

After the decision of the Administrative Court in Cologne to uphold the appeal by the Islamist leader Metin Kaplan against his deportation to Turkey, the Federal Government is making an effort to remove the obstacles that currently rule out the deportation of Mr. Kaplan. In order to achieve this aim, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has met his Turkish counterpart, Abdulkadir Aksu, and the Turkish Minister of Justice, Cemil Cicek, for talks aiming at a guarantee that Mr. Kaplan, after his return to Turkey, will face a trial which observes human rights and is in accordance with the rule of law. Both Turkish ministers have assured that the treason trial Mr. Kaplan will probably face after his return to Turkey will not be based on evidence which has been obtained by unlawful means, above all torture.

Meanwhile, the "Kaplan case" has triggered a public debate in Germany on how to deal with criminal offenders with a non-German citizenship. Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU), deputy speaker of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party, has demanded that legal regulations foreigners be tightened in order to allow the deportation of non-German offenders in more cases. Under current law, non-German offenders can only be deported if they have received a three-year prison sentence at least. In Mr. Bosbach's view, deportations should in future also be possible for prison sentences of at least one year.

Günther Beckstein (CSU), the Bavarian Interior Minister, has demanded that non-German offenders who have already received an official order to leave the country should be consistently deported to their home countries immediately after receiving a prison sentence; in theses cases of deportation it has to be guaranteed, according to Mr. Beckstein, that the perpetrator's country of origin will carry out the prison sentence. In addition, Mr. Beckstein has suggested that third countries could be persuaded by means of financial contributions to take in non-German offenders. A spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, however, has made it clear that the Federal Government will not pay any such contributions to third countries.
Welt am Sonntag 31.08.03 // dpa 15.09.03 // dpa 17.09.03 // SZ 17.09.03 // Press statement Bayerisches Staatsministerium 19.09.03 // NN 20.09.03 // SZ 26.09.03

Federal Administrative Court rules on language requirements for Spätaussiedler (ethnic German immigrants)

The Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) in Leipzig has ruled in detail on the language requirements for ethnic German immigrants. Under the Federal Displaced Persons Act (Bundesvertriebenengesetz), ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler) are required to provide proof of their German language skills before entering Germany. According to the court ruling, hesitant answers or grammatical errors are not sufficient for rejecting the applications of ethnic German immigrants. The main requirement for being admitted is that applicants are able to engage in "reasonably fluent" conversation about "everyday situations and needs" and talk about straightforward family, domestic or work topics.

The court decision has upheld an appeal by an ethnic German woman from Kazakhstan, whose application for migrating to Germany had been rejected by the authorities because of her insufficient German language skills. In the respective interview on her application, the woman had failed to understand all the questions posed to her immediately, and had answered in sentences that were partly grammatically incorrect. According to the Leipzig judges, however, the authorities have failed to take into consideration that the topic being discussed was not easy, and that therefore it could not have been expected that the woman understands all the questions immediately (BVerwG 5 C 33.02 and 5 C 11.03).
Press Statement BVerwG 04.09.03 // SZ 05.09.03

Asylum statistics

In September 2003, a total of 4,418 persons have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany, an increase by 24.5 % (870 persons) over the previous month, but a significant decrease by 29.7 % (- 1,868 persons) over September 2002. During the first nine months of the year 2003, the total number of asylum petitions has decreased by 28.0 %, in comparison to the same period last year.

In September 2003, applicants' main countries of origin were Turkey (513), the Russian Federation (474), Serbia and Montenegro (416), Vietnam (204), Iran (198) and Iraq (192). A striking fact is the considerable increase in applicants from the Russian Federation: Whereas only 231 Russian nationals submitted asylum petitions in August 2003, the respective figure for September rose to 474 petitions (59 % of which were submitted by Chechens), i.e. the figure has more than doubled.

In September 2003, the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees has passed decisions on the applications of 8,420 persons. 100 persons (1.2 %) have been recognised as entitled to political asylum; a further 103 persons (1.2 %) have been granted protection against deportation according to §51 Par.1 Foreigners Act. The applications of 5,608 persons (66.6 %) have been rejected. The remaining cases (31.0 %) have been closed for other reasons (e.g. when administrative procedures could be ceased because applications had been withdrawn).
Press statement BMI 07.10.03

September 2003

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