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Germany

Acrimony Over Jewish Immigration

Interior Minister Otto Schily and German Jewish leader Paul Spiegel are at odds over changes to rules permitting Jews from the former Soviet Union to immigrate to Germany.

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Spiegel (left) sees no reason to restrict Jews from immigrating

Spiegel rejected the government's plans to restrict Jewish immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), saying he saw no need for changes to the regulations, in an interview with Internet publication Netzeitung.de.

"If one compares how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and how many have immigrated and could still come -- the relations speak for themselves," the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told Reuters Wednesday.
"In public, the discussion comes across as if Germany had been flooded with Jewish immigrants in recent years," he said. "Since 1989 around 190,000 Jews have immigrated to Germany, and it isn't expected that hundreds of thousands more will come."

Aiding integration

Synagoge in Rykestrasse Berlin

Synagogue in Berlin's Rykestrasse

According to news reports, the new regulations will only allow Jews from CIS countries to immigrate to Germany if they are under 45 years of age, speak German, can show an invitation from a German Jewish community and can prove that they will not live from social welfare. The changes are meant to improve the integration of the immigrants, who some say show too little readiness to become part of German society. The new rules are in keeping with those applied to other immigrant groups.

In 1991, Germany introduced quotas for Jews immigrating from CIS countries. The immigrants were expected to strengthen Germany's Jewish communities that in the wake of the Holocaust only counted around 30,000 members. However, only 83,000 of those who immigrated since then officially joined the Jewish community.

Bundesminister des Innern Otto Schily

Interior Minister Otto Schily

Spiegel criticized the Interior Ministry for informing the Central Council of Jews in Germany -- over which he presides -- about the changes at such a late date. The changes must be approved by Germany's federal states and would come into effect in 2006.

Otto Schily (photo) confirmed Wednesday after a discussion with Spiegel that he had -- as in the past -- promised no changes would be made to the immigration regulations for Jews without the Central Council's agreement.

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