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efms Migration Report

October 2001

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European Parliament calls for a wider definition of 'refugee'

In the debate on creating a common EU policy on asylum and immigration, the European Parliament has called for a "wider definition of the legal term 'refugee'". This wider definition is to go beyond regulations outlined in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, mainly by recognising persons subject to non-governmental or gender-specific persecution as entitled to asylum. Members of the European Parliament have justified their demands by pointing out that the scope of non-governmental persecution has greatly increased, thus making it necessary to introduce a common European practice guaranteeing a "high level of protection". However, the resolution, which was passed against the votes of conservative MEPs, is non-binding, and needs to be confirmed unanimously by the governments of all EU member states. Otto Schily (SPD), Germany's Federal Minister of the Interior, has rejected the parliamentary proposal as incongruent with the German constitution. With the exception of the Greens, the resolution has met with severe criticism among immigration experts of all major political parties in Germany. Spokespersons of both the CDU and the SPD have branded the proposals as completely unacceptable. There have also been recriminations against MEPs representing the Greens and the SPD for undermining the national consensus on immigration Mr. Schily is aiming at.
dpa 3.10.01 // FAZ 4.10.01 // Tagesspiegel 5.10.01 // FR 6.10.01

Legislation against terrorism

In order to step up security in the aftermath of September 11, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) has expressed his support for a measure requiring all applicants for naturalisation to be screened by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Following the re-introduction of screen searches, a practice involving systematic checks of a wide range of databases, Federal Interior Minister Schily (SPD) has presented a second security package outlining additional security measures in the fight against terrorism. Its main goal is to improve the exchange of relevant data among security authorities. The Central Register for Foreigners is to be transformed into a comprehensive information system comprising data on non-Germans entering the country or applying for visa, including their religious affiliation. Fingerprints and photos of visa applicants are also to be stored. In the case of "problem countries", additional information can be obtained, e.g. by co-operating with intelligence agencies. In the long run, Schily plans to include fingerprints or other biometric data on German ID cards. According to the proposals, the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) will be allowed to investigate right from the start, even without any incriminating evidence. Regulations to exempt state's witnesses from punishment are also to be re-introduced. The plans also include new guidelines on deportation: Foreign nationals protected against deportation under the Geneva Convention (the so-called "small asylum") could then be deported as soon as they have been registered as suspects in criminal investigations. According to Mr. Schily, some of these regulations, e.g. the extended access to data stored in the Central Register for Foreigners, or expanded checks of visa applicants, are to be passed individually, i.e. not as part of the planned comprehensive immigration reform, in order to ensure that they will become law even if there is no consensus on the immigration package as a whole. The plans have met with widespread criticism among security experts and members of the coalition government, as well as lawyers, human rights and refugee organisations. Following negotiations with the Greens, parts of the draft were dropped, among them the possibility to start investigating without incriminating evidence and the deportation of foreign nationals who have not been convicted of a crime. The cabinet will discuss the security package on November 7. Representatives of the CDU and CSU, the main opposition parties, have criticised that the government proposals fall short of meeting Germany's increased security needs.
FR 1.10.01 // Welt 8.10.01 // FAZ 10.10.01 // Zeit 25.10.01 // FAZ 29.10.01 // Tagesspiegel 29.10.01 // Welt 30.10.01

Government parties reach consensus on immigration law

The government coalition refuses to give up its plans to pass an immigration reform before the next federal election, and has announced that it will present a modified draft bill before the end of this year. However, the debate on immigration is increasingly overshadowed by security questions. Particularly those parts of the planned immigration law that were certain to be approved by the CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, such as giving security authorities access to data stored in the Central Register for Foreigners, and expanded security checks for visa applicants, have already been passed individually as part of the government's "security package". Negotiations within the red-green coalition aimed at hammering out a common draft bill have proved to be extremely controversial. In his latest proposal, Interior Minister Schily (SPD) has given in to some of the Greens' main demands: persons subject to non-governmental and gender-specific persecution will be entitled to political asylum; the age up to which children of non-German residents will be allowed to join their families in Germany will be fixed at 14 instead of 12 years; there will also be improvements for refugees with a toleration certificate. The federal cabinet plans to pass this new draft on November 7, together with the security package. CDU/CSU, the main opposition parties, have made it clear that they will reject the bill.
FR 4.10.01 // FR 4.10.01 // FR 13.10.01 // SZ 29.10.01 // SZ 30.10.01

Greens demand help for Afghan refugees

In view of the war in Afghanistan, the Greens in Hesse have demanded that Afghan refugees be allowed into the country as contingent refugees. As has been the case for refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo, Afghan refugees could then be granted a temporary residence status for humanitarian reasons. Refugee experts of the main charities, among them the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, have called on all EU countries to allow such entries for humanitarian reasons. Cem Özdemir, domestic policy spokesman of the Greens, has also demanded that Afghan refugees be granted a secure residence status in Germany. At present, approximately 75,000 Afghan refugees live in Germany, many of them have lived here for years. Under German asylum law, persecution by the Taliban had until recently not been recognised as entitlement to political asylum, as it was not categorised as persecution by the "state". However, asylum applicants from Afghanistan were granted toleration certificates since there was no possibility to deport them to their home country. In February 2001, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that persecution by the Taliban has to be recognised as "equivalent to state persecution". Since then, 61% of all Afghan asylum applications have been approved (as compared to 0.8% prior to the court's ruling).
dpa 8.10.01 // dpa 9.10.01 // SZ 11.10.01 // FR 11.10.01

Asylum statistics

8,764 persons submitted petitions for political asylum in October 2001, an increase of 9.6% (764 persons) over the previous month, and of 14.1% (1,080 persons) over the same month of the previous year. Iraq, Turkey (with 1,186 applicants) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia remain to be the main source countries. With 678, the number of Afghan applicants has decreased compared to September. The Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees (BAFl) has passed decisions on 12,824 persons in October, 3,113 of them being Afghan nationals whose cases had been suspended until last May. In total, 993 persons (7,8%) were recognised as entitled to political asylum, among them 707 Afghan nationals. 2,847 persons were recognised as protected against deportation under § 51 Par. 1 Foreigners Act, among them 1,272 Afghans. 49.1% of all applications have been rejected.
Press Statement BMI 6.11.01

October 2001

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