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May 1994, Volume 1, Number 4

Kohl Calls for Expulsion of Violent Kurds

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl called for the expulsion of Kurds who took part in highway blockades and violent demonstrations on and after March 19 to protest the Turkish government's treatment of Kurds in southeastern Turkey (Kurds or "mountain Turks" are 10 to 15 million of Turkey's 60 million people). Rudolf Scharping, the SPD candidate for Chancellor, backed the expulsion of Kurds convicted of violent offenses.

The German government is currently attempting to negotiate a deportation agreement with Turkey. The key sticking point is whether Kurds deported from Germany to Turkey because of "threats to[German] public safety and order" face persecution there. The German Interior Minister has asked Turkey to guarantee that deported Kurds will not be tortured or executed.

Kurds are one-fifth of the two million Turks in Germany, and an estimated one percent of the 400,000 Kurds in Germany are members of the PKK, a group seeking an independent country in southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, and western Iran for the region's 20 to 30 million Kurds. The PKK was banned in Germany in February, 1993.

Asylum

Germany is a reluctant land of immigration--most of the 6.5 million non-German citizens in the country were not anticipated. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Germany recruited "guestworkers" who were expected to work one or two years and return home with their savings. Instead, many Turkish guestworkers settled. Originally imported to add only workers to the workforce, today the Turks contribute proportionally fewer workers to the German workforce than do Germans.

During the late 1980s, foreigners began to take advantage of Germany's constitutional guarantee that "all persons suffering political persecution shall have the right of asylum." During the three- to five-year application and appeal process, asylum seekers were housed and fed at local government expense and, in some areas, they obtained permission to work. In 1992, over 430,000 foreigners applied for asylum--which fewer than five percent received.

Beginning July 1, 1993, Germany began refusing to accept applications from persons who arrived via "safe" countries in which they could have applied for asylum. As a result, the number of asylum applications during the first quarter of 1994 fell by two-thirds versus the first quarter of 1993, to an average of 12,000 per month. About one-third of the first quarter's 36,000 asylum applicants were from the former Yugoslavia, and one-eighth were from Turkey.

Unions on Integration

A Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) position paper, adopted on November 9, 1993, urges the German government to recognize that "Germany will certainly need migrants" but that immigration must "be structured and organized." This can be achieved with annual quotas on immigration that do not discriminate on the basis of, inter alia, country of origin and, once the immigrants arrive in Germany, they must be integrated in a process that involves mutual adaptation and respect.

The DGB has a number of specific suggestions for the immigration policy it wants Germany to adopt. For example, it wants permanent immigrant status granted after five years of residence, and wants permanent immigrants to be allowed to vote in local elections. Foreign workers should be employed on an equal basis with German workers, and this means, according to the unions, that so-called contract work in construction must be banned. Eastern European contract workers are often brought to Germany as employees of a firm that wins a subcontract to complete part of a construction project in Germany.

Agence France Presse, April 9, 1994. Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 22, 1994.