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efms Migration Report


January 2005

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EU interior and justice ministers hold informal talks on "Hague Programme"

EU interior and justice ministers met in Luxembourg on 29th January 2005 for two days of informal talks on how to achieve the goals of a common interior and justice policy set by the "Hague Programme" for the next five years. Among other issues, ministers focused on the so-called "external dimension" of European asylum and migration policy. Participants have agreed to foster the protection of refugees in their home regions and in transit countries. Ministers have also approved of proposals for a "resettlement programme", i.e. relocating a limited number of recognised refugees to EU member states, proposals which had originally been presented by Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The EU Commission has been assigned to present proposals for a pilot scheme for such regional protection programmes until July.
taz 27.01.05 // Tagesschau.de 29.01.05 // FAZ 31.01.05 // SZ 31.01.05 // NN 31.01.05

German parliament: first reading of bill for an Anti-discrimination Act

The first parliamentary reading of the government bill for an Anti-discrimination Act (ADG), held in the German Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament, on 21st January 2005, has triggered a heated debate between the red-green government coalition and opposition parties. The government bill sets out to "prevent or abolish discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, sex, religion or fundamental beliefs, disability, age or sexual identity (§1 ADG). The law aims at regulating these issues in civil law as well as in employment law. According to the red-green government coalition, discrimination against migrants on the labour market, in housing and in other areas of civil law is still an everyday occurrence. The law also mandates setting up a federal anti-discrimination authority. With its ADG bill, the federal government is implementing EU guidelines, with some regulations, however, exceeding the minimum standards set by the EU. The most contentious issues of the bill comprise the extent of the legal definition for discrimination and the burden of proof in ensuing legal proceedings. Representatives of the opposition parties, as well as Dieter Hundt, President of the German Association of Employers, have branded the bill as an assault on personal autonomy and an unnecessary interference with current employment law practice. The government coalition and the German Trade Union Association (DGB), on the other hand, have hailed the bill as a major step towards a "culture of equal treatment". They have also expressed the view that the legislation will not lead to a surge in court cases.
taz 19.01.05 // FR 19.01.05 // Interkultureller Rat Pressemitteilung 20.01.05 // Integrationsbeauftragte der Bundesregierung Pressemitteilung 21.01.05 // Welt 22.01.05 // www.heute.de 23.01.05

Parliamentary enquiry "Security risks visa policy"

The panel conducting the parliamentary enquiry entitled "security risk visa policy" convened for its first session in Berlin on January 20, 2005. The opposition CDU/CSU parties have alleged that the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, headed by foreign minister Joschka Fischer, has aided and abetted hundreds of thousands of cases of visa abuse, notwithstanding repeated warnings by the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Federal Intelligence Service and the Federal Border Guard. According to the so-called "Volmer directive", German embassies had been directed to give priority to freedom of travel if they were in doubt about issuing a visa.
SZ 15.01.05 // Die Welt 17.01.05 // BZ 19.01.05 // FAZ 21.01.05 // SZ 29.01.05

Conference of interior ministers: interim regulations for Jewish immigrants

At their meeting on 29th December 2004, the German interior minister conference decided on interim regulations for Jewish immigrants from the succession states of the former Soviet Union. The interim regulations are to take effect on 1st January 2005. According to the decision, Jewish emigrants will only be admitted unconditionally to Germany if they have already been granted admission by one of the federal states, in order to "clarify the current legal situation".
SZ 05.01.05 // BMI Pressemitteilung 07.01.05

Immigration Act: integration courses

The Nuremberg-based Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has estimated the number of potential participants in integration courses at 194,000 for the year 2005. Out of this total, 56,000 people already are foreign residents of Germany, the remaining 138,000 being constituted by foreign nationals and ethnic German immigrants entering the country. Approximately 1,500 educational institutions that are planning to offer integration courses have already been registered. Some of the participating organisations have criticised the "additional bureaucracy" as well as the fact that the courses do not include the social counselling which has so far been routinely offered to migrants. Respective organisations had already demanded to include social counselling during parliamentary hearings for the new Immigration Act. The German Association of Adult Education Centres (DVV) has expressed its concern that up to 60% of participants could fail to pass the final test of their integration courses. In Berlin, there is still a lack of funds for German language classes, estimated at € 270,000. Moreover, the demand for courses among migrants who already are residents of Berlin exceeds the number of available places by 30%.
Welt am Sonntag 16.1.05 // Tagblatt 21.01.05 // Tagesspiegel 30.01.05

Denaturalisation of citizens with dual citizenship

In cases where residents have obtained dual citizenship, the German nationality can be revoked, even against the will of the person concerned, if respective persons do not become stateless in the process. According to the Frankfurt-based migration law expert Reinhard Marx, this legal practice has occurred in "at least five cases" in the state of Hesse alone over the last year. The denaturalisation procedures have been justified by allegations that new citizens had failed to provide information about their membership in anti-constitutional organisations, thus "fraudulently obtaining" their naturalisation through false statements. Furthermore, former Turkish nationals who have been granted German nationality will automatically lose their German citizenship if they secretly re-obtain their Turkish citizenship. The federal government has referred to these regulations in response to a parliamentary motion (15/4496) by the CDU/CSU opposition parties, which had alleged that 40,000 to 50,000 Turkish nationals, with the help of Turkish authorities, have obtained dual citizenship in Germany in a "legally improper manner". According to Ute Vogt (SPD), the parliamentary state secretary in the interior ministry, Turkish authorities have meanwhile ended this practice, following a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
taz 04.01.05 // Der Spiegel 10.01.05 // Flüchtlingsrat Nordrhein-Westfalen Pressemitteilung 14.01.05 // Das Parlament 18.01.05 // SZ 22.01.05

Federal Ministry of the Interior recommends three-month suspension of deportations to Asian countries affected by Tsunami catastrophe

In a circular dated 19th January 2005, Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily (SPD) has sent a recommendation to state interior ministers to the effect that state authorities should for three months suspend deportation procedures to the areas affected by the Tsunami disaster. According to Mr. Schily, his letter is in accordance with a recommendation by the UNHCR and the views expressed by other European states. In contradiction to this recommendation, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) had on 5th January 2005 issued a statement to a 35-year-old Tamil from Sri Lanka who currently lives in Bremen, informing him that an entitlement to protection against deportation can only be granted if he otherwise "would face almost certain death or risk the most severe injuries". The statement had continued by pointing out that this was not the case in Sri Lanka, as the consequences of the flooding "were limited to coastal areas in the north, east and south of Sri Lanka" and the person concerned could therefore move to unaffected areas of Sri Lanka.
FR 13.01.05 // BMI Pressemitteilung 19.01.05 // Die Welt 21.01.05

Repeal of asylum recognition or secure residence status for Iranians

According to a report filed by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin on 26th January 2005, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has over the last months in more than thirty cases repealed the asylum recognition or secure residence entitlements for Iranian nationals. The people concerned had stated on their arrival in Germany that they were members of a resistance group called the People"s Mujahideen ("Mujahedin-e-Khalq" -MEK). The repeal had been prompted by a decision, which was taken in 2002, to include the MEK organisation in the EU list of terrorist groups. In its statement, the International League for Human Rights alleges, however, that the actual reason was "scandalous political horse-trading" between EU countries and Iran over the nuclear-weapon issue.
Pressemitteilung Flüchtlingsrat Nordrhein-Westfalen 14.01.05 // BZ 26.01.05 // FR 27.01.05

German authorities crack down on non-German extremists

With the new Immigration Act having taken effect, there are first indications that German authorities have begun to crack down on extremist non-German residents. In a nationwide raid carried out on 12th January 2005, 22 suspected Islamists, including five women, were arrested by the police. In a concerted action directed by the Bavarian State Bureau of Investigation (LKA), almost 800 police officers and three public prosecutors searched 57 apartments and mosques, most of them located in Baden-Wurttemberg and North-Rhine Westphalia, with some others situated in Bavaria, Hesse and Berlin. Members of an "Islamist-extremist network" are suspected of having formed a criminal organisation centred in the Ulm / Neu-Ulm area, committing criminal offences such as human trafficking, property offences, for example fraud, and other offences such as "propagating ideas aimed at an incitement of the people" and recruiting people for the "holy war". On the 22nd January 2005, police in Nuremberg arrested Remzi Kartal, who is the deputy leader of the banned Kurdish organisation PKK and wanted by Turkey for alleged terrorist activities. On 23rd January 2005, police in Mainz arrested two suspected members of Al-Qaida. The suspects have been accused of planning insurance fraud as well as suicide attacks in Iraq. The Iraqi Ibrahim K. is currently considered to be the most dangerous Al-Qaida activist in Germany.
taz 03.01.05 // Die Welt 05.01.05 // NN 12.01.05 // Die Welt 13.01.05 // FAZ 13.01.05 // BZ 13.01.05 // SZ 14.01.05 // FR 24.01.05 // SZ 25.01.05 // NN 25.01.05 // welt.de 25.01.05 // Der Spiegel 31.01.05

Top-level talks between EKD and Muslim organisations

Leading representatives of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) and Muslim organisations met for a two-hour talk in Berlin on 11th January 2005. The aim of the talks was to exchange differing points of view and discuss critical issues. Among the issues raised by the EKD were the equality between men and women, Islamist terror and the state-church relationship in Islam. Representatives of the Muslim organisations, on the other hand, have questioned the liberal stance of many Protestants on abortion, their attitude towards homosexuality, the "secularisation" of Western society and the perceived criticism of headscarves as a symbol for the oppression of women. The meeting, which was the first of its kind, is to be repeated annually in future.
NN 11.01.05 // Die Welt 13.01.05

University chair for Islamic religious instruction at Erlangen-Nuremberg University

The Bavarian education ministry has authorised the establishment of a university chair for Islamic religious instruction at Erlangen-Nuremberg University. The professorship, which will be the first of its kind in the whole of Germany, will allow approximately 30 students to receive training as future teachers for Islamic religious instruction at primary and secondary schools. It will also fulfil the necessary requirements for expanding religious instruction for Muslim students in Bavaria, which had so far been offered on a trial basis only.
NZ 18.01.05 // SZ 31.01.05

Bavaria closes repatriation centres for asylum seekers in Hormersdorf and Nuremberg

In a surprising move, the Bavarian interior ministry has decided to close down the repatriation centres for asylum seekers in Hormersdorf and Nuremberg. These centres had been set up to accommodate asylum seekers whose country of origin was unknown and who had failed to provide identification documents. In future, they are to be accommodated in regular centres for asylum seekers, as the special centres had, according to Michael Münchow, administrative director at the district government of Middle Franconia, "caused too much of a stir".
NN 11.01.05 // NN 12.01.05 // NN 21.01.05

Ruling by Federal Administrative Court (BGH): Child custody can be restricted if daughter faces genital mutilation

The XII. Civil Court of Appeal at the Federal Administrative Court (BGH) ruled on 27th January 2005 that parents can lose their right of determining the place of residence of their underage daughter if they plan to bring their daughter to a country where she faces genital mutilation. According to the court, restricting parental custody in such a case is admissible and proportionate, as the circumcision of a girl constitutes a cruel, consequential and unjustifiable mistreatment which seriously infringes on the well-being of a child.
FR 28.01.05 // Die Welt 28.01.05

Integration representative Beck: Migration to Germany continues to decrease

Marieluise Beck, the federal government commissioner for integration, presented the latest annual migration statistics in Berlin on 17th January 2005, emphasising that migration flows to Germany have continued to decline. In the year 2003, at 769,000, migration inflows fell below the level of 800,000 for the first time in years. During the same period, migration outflows amounted to 626,000 Germans and non-German nationals leaving the country. According to Ms. Beck, the downward trend is likely to continue in 2004, with net migration probably levelling at approximately 70,000 to 80,000, which equals 0.1% of the total population. Migration inflows have thus reached their lowest level since 1991. Ms. Beck also tried to put immigration figures into perspective, pointing out that seasonal workers, who are registered in the migration statistics, do not stay permanently in Germany. In 2003, for example, inflows of seasonal workers amounted to 318,000 (+3.6%), most of them of Polish nationality. In 2003, the largest group of immigrants were Germans (167,000). This group includes Spätaussiedler (ethnic German immigrants), but also return migration of former German residents. On the whole, the number of migrants planning to settle down in Germany permanently has decreased. The proportion of non-German residents has remained stable at 8.9% of the total population, notwithstanding the decreasing immigration figures. Two thirds of the non-German residents have lived in Germany for more than ten years, one fifth even for more than thirty years.
NZZ 19.01.05 // Kölner Stadtanzeiger 18.01.05 // SZ 19.01.05 // FAZ 21.01.05 // Das Parlament 24.01.05

Asylum statistics

In January 2005, 2,338 persons have submitted a petition for political asylum in Germany. This constitutes another significant decrease in asylum figures, by 14.9% (-408 applicants) over December 2004, and by 37.9% (-1,429 applicants) over January 2004. In January 2005, applicants" main countries of origin were Serbia and Montenegro (357), Turkey (271) and the Russian Federation (178), followed by Vietnam (109) and Iraq (97). The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has passed decisions on the asylum petitions of 3,437 persons, 36 of whom (1.0%) have been recognised as entitled to asylum. A further 117 persons (3.4%) have been granted protection against deportation according to §60 Par. 1 Residence Act. The petitions of 2,116 persons (61.6%) have been rejected. The cases of a further 1,168 persons (34.0%) have been closed for other reasons, for example because applicants have withdrawn their petition.
Pressemitteilung BMI 10.02.05

January 2005

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