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efms Migration Report

February 2001

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EU efforts to harmonise asylum laws

EU interior and justice ministers have met in Stockholm for negotiations concerning a common EU asylum policy. Harmonised asylum rules are to be in place until 2004, but doubts remain about whether it will be possible to stick to this time frame. Mr. Schily, the German federal minister of the interior, favours a "comprehensive approach" aimed at harmonising both asylum and refugee policies. He emphasises, however, that the specific situation in some EU countries has to be taken into consideration: As Germany's neighbours are all "safe third countries", he considers it vital to sustain "tried and tested" legal concepts such as "safe third countries" and "safe countries of origin". He made clear that Germany opposes some of the proposed EU minimum standards, e.g. recognising non-governmental persecution as a basis for granting asylum, and establishing a quota system aiming at a fair division of immigration inflows. Negotiations in Stockholm also focused on fighting illegal immigration and human trafficking, with representatives of the United Kingdom, which has witnessed a sharp increase in asylum applications over the last year, calling for measures to tighten the current system. The United Kingdom and Sweden have made proposals for expanding co-operation with the Balkan states, as, according to several sources, approximately half of all immigration inflows enter the EU via the Western Balkans, often with the help of professional trafficking organisations. Sentences for individuals involved in human trafficking are also to be tightened drastically.
dpa 8.2.01 // SZ 9.2.01 // FR 9.2.01 // FAZ 10.2.02 // NZ 10.2.01 // FR 10.2.01

Debate on expanding "Green Card" programme

Chancellor Schröder is calling for an expansion of Germany's "Green Card" programme, which has so far been limited to IT companies, in order to include other business sectors which, according to several business associations, are also affected by a lack of "qualified specialists". Mr. Schily, the Federal Minister of the Interior, has underlined the success of the current "Green Card" programme - more than 5,000 IT specialists have entered Germany on this basis so far - and also supports an improved and expanded system for recruiting specialists from abroad. However, Mr. Jagoda, head of the Federal Office of Employment, has emphasised that the increased demand for qualified specialists should be met by resorting to Germany's own resources. Similarly, Mr. Müller, the Federal Economics Minister, has characterised the "Green Card" programme as a one-off effort at meeting the current demand for IT specialists, whereas the long-term problem of a lack of qualified specialists can only be solved by expanding domestic job training programmes. At the same time there has been increased support, both among government and opposition representatives, for a comprehensive new immigration law that takes into account the labour demand of German companies. Mr. Müntefering, Secretary General of the ruling SPD, has announced new legislation for this year, saying that once the Federal Government Commission on Immigration has presented its results the Federal Government will be in a position to take "swift" legislative action.
dpa 1.2.01 // SZ 2.2.01 // dpa 4.2.01 // SZ 5.2.01 // Spiegel 12.2.01 // SZ 24.2.01

Abolishing constitutional right to asylum off the agenda

In the debate on abolishing the individual right to political asylum, a significant shift has taken place in the views of the CDU, the main opposition party. Wolfgang Bosbach, one of the vice chairmen of the CDU, has made it clear in a statement to the party's internal commission on immigration that the party's long-standing demand to replace the constitutional right to individual asylum with an institutional guarantee will no longer be upheld as the party's primary goal, since the practical consequences of such a step would not fulfil expectations. Mr. Schily (SPD), Federal Minister of the Interior, has also changed his views on the matter. His original position had led to tensions within the ruling coalition and drawn criticism from the Greens. Mr. Schily now concedes that the introduction of an institutional guarantee would not reduce the number of asylum applications, mainly in view of international obligations under the Geneva Convention on Refugees. In his view, the question should be dealt with by focussing on asylum application procedures; specific proposals are to be presented as soon as the government's commission on immigration has published its recommendations. However, Rita Süssmuth (CDU), chairwoman of the federal government's commission on immigration, has suggested that German asylum procedures should not be changed until the EU has presented its proposals on harmonising European asylum laws. A suggestion put forward by Friedrich Merz, chairman of the CDU Parliamentary Party, has been widely criticised. In his statement Mr. Merz has demanded that all political activities of asylum applicants should be banned during their stay in Germany, as these activities could lead to political persecution of applicants in their home countries and thus justify their asylum applications in Germany.
FAZ 1.2.01 // FR 1.2.01 // FR 3.2.01 // Welt 27.2.01 // FR 28.2.01

Plans for new detention centre at Frankfurt Airport

The Federal Ministry of the Interior and the State of Hesse are holding talks on building a new detention centre at Frankfurt airport for asylum seekers who submitted an application on their arrival in Frankfurt. These applicants are to be put in detention if their applications have been rejected by German authorities (airport asylum procedure) and if their deportation cannot be carried out immediately. Up to now, respective applicants were often held in the airport's transit area for up to several months. This state of affairs, which has put an enormous strain on detained applicants and drawn widespread public criticism, is to be amended by the new proposal. Under proposed regulations, a decision on whether applicants are allowed to enter Germany or have to leave the country has to be reached within 19 to 30 days after their arrival at Frankfurt airport. Plans to build the new detention centre for rejected applicants who cannot be immediately deported have not met with universal approval. Several asylum lawyers have criticised that the plans would in fact lead to perpetuating the special asylum procedures employed at Frankfurt airport "interminably". Marieluise Beck (Alliance 90/The Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners and Integration, is in favour of moving respective applicants to regular accomodation centres and applying "regular return procedures".
FR 7.2.01 // dpa 8.2.01 // FR 9.2.01

Employed Bosnian refugees receive permission to stay

The Conference of German Interior Ministers, at its meeting on 15th Feb 2001, has granted refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina permission to stay in Germany, if the following conditions have been fulfilled: residence in Germany for at least six years, permanent employment for 2 years, a statement by the employer to the effect that they are "urgently" needed labour. The refugees can apply for an extension of their residence permits until June; permits will then be extended for another two years, including applicants' families. When these two years have elapsed, the refugees will be allowed to stay in Germany permanently, provided they have been able to earn their own living continuously. According to Mr. Püchel (SPD), head of the Conference of German Interior Ministers, approximately 10,000 to 20,000 persons will profit from the new regulations.
FAZ 16.2.01 // SZ 16.2.01 // FR 16.2.01

Federal Administrative Court: better chances for Afghan refugees

The Federal Administrative Court (BVG) has ruled in two decisions that the persecution of persons who oppose the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is relevant in terms of political asylum. The rulings concur with a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) from August 2000, which recognises the existence of a state-like regime in Afghanistan, its legitimacy notwithstanding. The decision also calls for a re-evaluation of the concept of "state-like" persecution. The stay imposed on asylum decisions on applications from Afghan nationals, which has been in place since the BVG's decision, is now to be lifted. Marieluise Beck (Alliance 90/The Greens), the Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners and Integration, predicts that the majority of refugees from Afghanistan - more than 12,000 asylum petitions have been submitted - will be granted a regular refugee status.
Press statement Federal Administrative Court 20.2.01 // dpa 20.2.01 // FR 21.2.01 // Statement by the Federal Government Commissioner for Refugees and Integration 20.2.01

Federal Ministry of Education calls for internationalisation of German universities

Edelgard Bulmahn (SPD), the Federal Education Minister, has pledged to spend DM 170 million on a programme aimed at bringing the ongoing "brain drain" from Germany to a halt and attracting scientists from abroad to live and work in Germany. The programme sets out to attract leading and junior scientists as well as students from abroad to Germany; in addition, it also includes incentives for German scientists that have emigrated to return to Germany. The plans include changes in residence regulations, in order to allow foreign students to work in Germany after graduating from a German university. According to the minister, these changes are inevitable in view of the economic and demographic developments Germany is facing; with incentives for leading specialists from around the world, German universities are to become more international, thus making the German scientific community more attractive to people from abroad.
Welt 28.2.01

New Policy on Aussiedler?

According to the Federal Government, only 25% of the Aussiedler (ethnic German immigrants) currently entering Germany are of German descent, the other 75% being family members of non-German descent. Jochen Welt (SPD), the Federal Government Commissioner for Aussiedler, has pointed out that only 25,000 of the 95,615 persons who entered Germany as Aussiedler in 2000 are "actually" of German descent. As most of these non-German family members have no knowledge of the German language, their integration faces severe obstacles. Mr. Welt announced that in future family members will also be required to pass a German language test. But details are not be announced until the Federal Government Commission on Immigration has presented its results. Among other issues, the commission is discussing possible restrictions on inflows of immigrants of German descent from Eastern Europe.
FR 21.2.01

Statistics on Aussiedler

Migration inflows of Aussiedler amounted to 5,484 in February, compared to 5,045 during the same period of the previous year. In addition, 7,586 new petitions for entering Germany were submitted (February 2000: 6,290).
BMI Press Announcement 2.3.01

Statistics on asylum applications

6,220 new asylum applications were submitted in February, a decrease of 18% on the previous month. However, compared to February 2000, numbers have slightly increased by 1.7% (103 persons). The total number of all asylum applications submitted since the beginning of 2001 has increased by 8.5% over the numbers for the same period of the previous year. Mr. Schily, Federal Minister of the Interior, has emphasised that the trend towards fewer applications, which has been continuing since 1993, is currently being reversed. The largest increase has been registered for applicants from Iraq. The number of nationals from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (mostly Albanians from Kosovo, Roma and Serbs), on the other hand, is decreasing. Of the 6,503 decisions passed this month, 239 persons (3.7%) were officially recognised as entitled to political asylum. The percentage of applicants protected against deportation according to Art. 51 Par. 1 Foreigners Act was 14.1% (920 persons). 55.9% (3,636 applications) have been rejected.
BMI Press Announcement 6.3.01 // NN 7.3.01

February 2001

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