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Court Denies Illiterate Turkish Man German Citizenship

Illiterate foreigners are not eligible for German citizenship, according to a German court ruling disclosed Thursday.

A hand holding a pen, poised over a form

To be German, you have to be able to fill out forms

The verdict was handed down to a Turkish citizen who has lived in Germany for 20 years: Because he is illiterate, he has no right to German citizenship.

Although the 39-year-old man was granted asylum by the German state in 1993 and has been granted permanent residency in Germany, he turned to the higher administrative court in Baden-Wuerttemberg when his application for citizenship was denied by the city of Pforzheim on the grounds of an insufficient knowledge of German.

Communication skills needed

But the court in Mannheim agreed that it was not enough to speak the language -- citizenship applicants must at least be able to read German. Only then can written forms in his or her name can be checked for accuracy, said the judge.

A woman ina headscarf writing

Immigrants can catch up on language skills in night school, the court said

In order to integrate socially and politically, the man was told, it is necessary to be able to follow the media and be able to communicate with Germans.

Other signs of successful integration, such as a secure job and well-integrated children, could not compensate for illiteracy, the court said.

Never too late

Even though the man has no formal education and cannot read or write, the court ruled that even a foreigner who is illiterate in their own language cannot be exempted from the German citizenship stipulations.

The man was also told that since he was only 19 when he first arrived in Germany, he should have taken the opportunity to enroll in literacy classes - and that it was still not too late to learn to read and write.

Germany has a literacy rate of nearly 100 percent; according to the education nonprofit dvv international, there are an estimated four million illiterates in the country.

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