Germany′s ″Tolerated″ Immigrants Struggle to Find Jobs | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.08.2008
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Germany's "Tolerated" Immigrants Struggle to Find Jobs

One year ago, Germany implemented a new European policy of allowing immigrants to stay in the country as long as they could feed their families. But the new rules haven't improved life for all foreigners.

A woman in a headscarf in the colors of the German flag

Regardless of their legal status, many consider Germany home

There are about 180,000 immigrants in Germany whose presence the government has given "tolerated" or restricted status. The people don't have an official visa, but they also can't be deported.

They are, however, confronted by two major problems: They can't work, and they are not allowed to leave their place of residence.

A European Union law, implemented in Germany on Aug. 28, 2007, aimed to give migrants who didn't have visas but were contributing to society a bit more security and chance to make lives for themselves.

The law created the possibility for unmarried people who have lived in Germany for eight years and families who have lived in the country for six years to work and move freely within Germany.

One hurdle after the next

Among the 19,000 people who meet the law's requirement are Zoran and Razija Muratovic live with their seven children in Berlin. Like two-thirds of the migrants in Germany the new law applies to, they are from the former Yugoslavia, and though they've lived in Germany for 17 years, they only recently received temporary residence permits.

A woman works at a computer

Those who have lived in Germany for a long time are allowed to work

The Muratovics fled Yugoslavia in 1991 before the Bosnian war broke out and, when the country split apart, they were left stateless. Now that Zoran Muratovic finally has a passport and his papers are in order, he can do what has been legally forbidden to do since he arrived in Germany: work.

In order to turn his new temporary residence permit into a more permanent one, he has one year to find a job that pays enough to support himself, his wife and their four children who are still underage.

That could be a tough condition for the 53-year-old Zoran who has diabetes and has suffered a stroke. His son Schuki, 28, said he thinks it'll be difficult for his father to find an employer now that he's finally allowed to work.

No visa, no training, no job

For Schuki, who was 11 when he came to Germany with his family, the new residence rules also came too late. As immigrants with restricted legal status, he and his two adult siblings weren't allowed to get vocational training while growing up.

Without any skills or job experience, it's not easy for him to find a job, he said.

Trainees working in a car repair shop

Many immigrants were unable to receive the job training needed to find work

That's exactly where Eva Maria Kulla tries to help. As the director of Diakonisches Werk Steglitz, a church-based organization, she hopes to assist the Muratovic family and others in their attempts to find jobs and ultimately secure visas in Germany.

Just putting together a job application can be a challenge, said Kulla. Some immigrants are hesitant to talk about their past. Others may have lost important documents while fleeing their home countries.

Foreign diplomas often aren't recognized in Germany making the situation difficult even for immigrants who were skilled workers before coming to Germany, explained Kulla. And there just isn't an abundance of available jobs, particularly in the Berlin/Brandenburg area.

Room to breathe, for now

Nevertheless, Kulla said she sees the new regulations as a chance, even if just for a few, to improve their situation.

Schuki said he can sleep better since he got his temporary residence permit. He doesn't have to visit the immigration office every few months hoping he won't get deported.

Now he has a year to find a job that will cover at least the cost of food and rent. He's just started work delivering newspapers, but he said he's not sure he'll earn enough doing that.

In any case, he said he wants to stay in Germany because, after all, it's home.

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