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October 1996, Volume 3, Number 10

Germany Begins to Return Bosnians

Ex-Yugoslavia. Germany plans to begin returning 320,000 persons to Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 1, 1996, in a process that will continue through 1997. The first Bosnians to be returned will be single adults and childless couples; those resisting voluntary repatriation face deportation. An estimated 60 percent of the Bosnians in Germany are Muslim.

Bosnian Muslims who come from areas "cleansed" by Serbs will not be returned to Serb areas.

The interior ministers of the 16 states handle the return of foreigners to their countries of origin, so that there is likely to be state-to-state variation in how Bosnians are returned. Baden Wurtemberg plans to send letters in early October to some Bosnians, telling them to that their "toleration permits" to remain in Germany expire on December 15, 1996. Hessen, on the other hand, has said that there will be no repatriations until April 1, 1997.

Berlin's Interior Minister, for example, said that Bosnians in Berlin must realize that "our hospitality is coming to an end and that they must go home voluntarily."

Chancellor Helmut Kohl said that, instead of spending DM15 billion on Bosnians in Germany , it makes "more sense to send them home and to spend the money on reconstruction."

Of the 687,000 Bosnians who left the former Yugoslavia, about 320,000 are in Germany, 122,000 are in Sweden, and 80,000 are in Austria.

Germany and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in September 1996 signed a separate agreement for the return of another 120,000 Serbian refugees--mostly ethnic Albanians from Kosovo-- currently living in Germany. Most are expected to return in 1997-98.

Asylum. Some 9,548 foreigners applied for asylum in Germany in August, 1996, bringing the total for 1996 to 76,000, compared with 80,500 for the first eight months of 1995. Of the 13,000 cases decided in August, about 900, or seven percent of the foreigners who applied, were granted refugee status in Germany.

A Togo man was removed forcibly by Bavarian police from an Adventist church in Wunsiedel, Bavaria and flown home, signaling a tough state policy toward "church asylum." The church gave the man sanctuary in March. About 60 foreigners whose applications for asylum in Germany have been rejected are being sheltered in churches in Bavaria.

There were calls for the resignation of the Bavarian interior minister for breaking a promise not to enter church grounds to expel an asylum-seeker.

Germany spent DM5.5 billion on asylum seekers in 1995, about the same as in 1994.

On September 16, 1996, the trial started for Safwan Eid, a Lebanese asylum seeker charged with burning a Hamburg foreigners' hostel on January 18, 1996. Ten foreigners were killed, and 38 injured. Demonstrators convinced that neo-Nazis set the fire protested outside the courtroom.

The Eid family--parents and three children in Germany, and two grown children still in Lebanon-- spent $15,000 to be smuggled to Germany, admittedly as economic migrants. Their asylum applications were rejected, but they were allowed to stay in Germany because Lebanon refused to take them back.

In September, 1996, 12 neo-Nazi youth were arrested for attacking foreigners' hostels in August in the former east German state of Saxony. There were 165 violent attacks on foreigners in Germany in the first six months of 1996, down almost 50 percent from the same period in 1995.

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on September 9 assured visiting Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy that Germany would continue to accept Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In 1990, Chancellor Kohl made an agreement with German-Jewish leaders to permit immigration to rebuild the aging Jewish community, and 45,000 Jews have so far immigrated under the open immigration program.

According to Der Speigel, some 80,000 visas have been approved for Jewish immigrants so far, and an estimated hundreds of thousands of Jews in the ex-USSR are waiting in line to move to Germany. German Development Aid Minister Carl-Dieter Spranger earlier in 1996 said that, since Jewish immigration is not limited, there is the potential for conflict between Israel and Germany over the Ukraine's 800,000 Jews.

Border Controls. Germany has 5,700 agents to guard its eastern borders, and another 500 are scheduled to join them in 1997. In 1995, they apprehended and returned about 30,000 foreigners to Poland and the Czech Republic.

Vietnamese. On September 17, the first chartered flight returned 239 Vietnamese to Vietnam, the first returns since Germany and Vietnam signed a repatriation agreement on September 21, 1995 that anticipates the return of 40,000 Vietnamese by 2000. About 657 Vietnamese have been returned from Germany to Hanoi on regularly-scheduled flights.

Labor Market. Hans Peter Stihl, a spokesperson for employers, urged the German government to make it easier to employ foreign workers from countries to which Germany exports its goods. According to Stihl, Germany should make it easier for foreign students to enter Germany from developing countries and to stay in Germany after they have completed their studies.

During the 1960s and 1970s, unemployment rates in western Europe were typically half those in the US. In the 1980s, this relationship reversed, and today the US unemployment rate is half the German unemployment rate of 10 percent.

The unemployment rate is 15 percent in the former East Germany, and nine percent in the former West Germany. A number of employment subsidies, Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassmahmen, are being curtailed to save money--these subsidies amounted to DM2.6 billion ($1.7 billion) in the West, and DM7.2 billion ($4.7 billion) in the East.

The Federal Labor Office, in another study, attacked a favorite union proposal for job creation--ban overtime. According to the Labor Office, only about 10 percent of the overtime hours would be used to create 85,000 additional jobs.

Germany is in the lead among European countries in reducing social welfare benefits. For example, about 92 percent of Germans with monthly incomes of less than DM580, are enrolled in 850 Krankenkasse (sickness funds). The Krankenkasse allocate a fixed amount of money to regional associations of doctors, which reimburse individual doctor-members according to their work as measured in points. A house call, for example, earns a doctor 400 points. If all doctors collectively bill more points, the reimbursement per point declines--in one case, from DM40 per 400 points to DM24.

Employers and workers in Germany each contribute about 6.5 percent of their gross earnings for health care, for a total of 13 percent. In France, employees contribute seven percent, and employers 13 percent, for a total 20 percent.


Herve Asquin, "Germany resolved to send Bosnians Home," Agence France Presse, September 30, 1996. "Door's slam," The Economist, September 28, 1996. Alan Cowell, "Germans Plan to Return Refugees to Bosnia," New York Times, September 20, 1996. "Germany sends home first charter-load of Vietnamese," Agence France Presse, September 18, 1996. Imre Karacs, "Migrant accused of hostel death fire," The Independent, September 17, 1996. "German official wants easier foreign worker laws," Reuters, September 11, 1996. "African forcibly removed from church sanctuary and deported," Agence France Presse, September 5, 1996. Cornelia Bolesch, "Germany divides on arson trial," The Guardian, September 4, 1996.