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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

Germany: Immigration in Campaign

Politics. The major German political parties announced tough new anti-crime policy proposals in the run-up to the September 27, 1998 elections. The SPD said that if elected it would give police the means to increase enforcement against the type of crime that the SPD said was "dominated" by foreigners in Germany, such as drug trafficking and prostitution. The SPD also promised to more quickly deport illegal immigrants who commit crime in Germany.

After an August 6, 1998 speech in Washington DC, Gerhard Schroeder, SPD candidate for chancellor, was asked about "incoming hordes from Anatolia who would take Germany back into the Middle Ages" if Turkey were to join the EU. In his reply, he urged Germans to avoid "nightmare" scenarios, and added that, "The consequences of the fear of strangers is politically very difficult to control."

Chancellor Helmut Kohl reportedly believes that the two critical issues in the last month of the election campaign are unemployment and immigration. The CDU-CSU announced in mid-August that, if re-elected, it would permit foreigners who have lived in Germany for at least ten years to apply for naturalization, down from the current 15 years. Foreigners who know German and are deemed "ready to integrate" would have a right to naturalize--under current law, the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove that he should be permitted to naturalize. However, the CDU-CSU rejected proposals that would permit dual nationality and birthright citizenship.

CSU party leader Waigel released the joint CDU-CSU foreigners' section of the platform on August 11 without the usual phrase--"Germany is not a country of immigration." The platform calls for reduced immigration and restrictions on family unification, the return of those with TPS to their home countries, and opposes dual nationality and birthright citizenship. According to the platform, "Immigration must be restricted as tightly as possible. Anyone who calls for immigration to our densely populated country endangers its inner peace." Naturalization is, in the words of Waigel, the end point of integration.

The Allensbach Institute poll in mid-August gave the SPD 44 percent of the vote and the CDU/CSU 33 percent; the Green party had seven percent. The Green Party reiterated its support for birthright citizenship in August 1998.

In July, 1998 a German court in Munich upheld a decision to deport a 14-year old Turk and his parents. Mehmet was born in Germany and convicted of a series of crimes; his adult brothers, who have not been convicted of any crimes, would have been permitted to remain in Germany. The case generated widespread discussion of foreigners and criminality, and of the right of long-term resident foreigners to remain in Germany.

Bosnians/Asylum. Some 75,000 Bosnians left Germany in 1998, including 25,000 in July; most accepted financial incentives, but a few were deported. Many of the Bosnians who remain in Germany are Muslims from Serb-controlled parts of Bosnia; they cannot return to their homes, since they are occupied by Serbs. The US in August 1998 condemned the return of Bosnian Muslims to areas away from their homes, saying that Germany's return policy ratifies ethnic cleansing.

On July 1, 1993, Germany changed its asylum law and practice. The five-year reviews of the law's effects noted that the German authorities have changed the first question asked of asylum seekers. Instead of "are you being persecuted," the question is "how did you get to Germany?" This is because asylum applicants who arrive in Germany via a "safe third country,"--all EU-member nations are safe-- are returned to that country to apply for asylum there. In 1992, 90 percent of the asylum applicants passed through "safe third countries" en route to Germany.

Most asylum applicants today have themselves smuggled into Germany in trucks or cars, so that they can go to the authorities in cities such as Hamburg or Munich, apply for asylum, and say, "I do not know how I arrived in Germany. I was placed inside a container on a truck in Istanbul, and was let out in Hamburg or Munich."

There are about 150,000 Kosovo Albanians in Germany, and another 10,000 arrived in 1998. Most enter Germany after traveling by boat from Albania to Italy, and then going north. Unlike Bosnians, they are not given a TPS because of civil war at home, and can be deported if their regular asylum applications are rejected.

Enforcement. The number of cases involving smuggled aliens increased to 97, involving 2,160 foreigners, in the first six months of 1998 compared to 64 in the first half of 1997. Most of the smugglers bring foreigners illegally across the German-Czech border.

On July 30, seven illegal immigrants, believed to be from Kosovo, died when a van smuggling them into Germany ran out of control near the Czech border and crashed during a police pursuit. Another 21 immigrants were injured, 11 seriously, in the incident. The police said that the migrants probably crossed the Czech-German border on foot the previous night accompanied by smugglers who guided them to a van waiting on the German side.

Demography/Economy. For the first time since 1985, more foreigners left Germany than arrived in 1997: there were 615,000 arrivals and 637,000 departures. Net immigration, reflecting births to foreigners in Germany, was 94,000, compared to 282,000 in 1996. Germany had 82 million residents at the end of 1997, up 45,000 for the year compared to a gain of 195,000 in 1996 and 279,000 in 1995. In December 1997, Germany had 7.4 million foreign residents, up from 7.3 million at the end of 1996.

More Germans returned to Germany than emigrated: 225,000 arrived, including 134,000 ethnic Germans and 110,000 Germans emigrated. West Germany's population increased in 1997; East Germany's population shrank slightly--168,000 people moved from the old east to west Germany, and 157,000 from the old west to east.

Both Kohl and Schroeder have endorsed proposals for a "combi-wage" (Kombilohn) to reduce long-term unemployment; unemployed workers who accept low-wage jobs would have their wages topped up by the government. Those unemployed for more than one year who accept a low-wage job would end up with 73 to 77 percent of their previous net monthly earnings from a combination of wages and wage subsidies.

Imre Karacs, "Kohl scrabbles for votes on immigration and workfare," Independent, August 13, 1998. Martina Fietz, "Union plant Reform bei Staatsbürgerschaft," Die Welt, August 2, 1998. "Seven illegal immigrants die in German police pursuit," Agence France Presse, July 30, 1998. Andrew Gimson, "Kohl goes to polls attacking foreign criminals," Daily Telegraph, July 29, 1998.