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Dual citizenship

June 28, 2009

A fresh campaign to reform dual citizenship laws has been launched in Berlin. Currently, children who are born in Germany to foreign parents must choose between nationalities by age 23.

A diverse group of children eat lunch in a Berlin kindergarten classroom
Children born to foreigners in Germany are allowed dual citizenship only until age 23Image: picture-alliance/ZB

The campaign was launched last week by a coalition of politicians, churches, social groups, lawyers, and academics who say it is unfair to force children of migrants to choose between Germany, where they were raised, and the birthplace of their parents, whose culture and traditions they often share.

Since 2000, children born in Germany automatically become German citizens when at least one parent has permanent residency status. Up until adulthood those children can also retain citizenship of their parents' country of origin. Sometime between their 18th and 23rd birthday, however, they must renounce their foreign citizenship in order to maintain their status in Germany.

The only exception is for children born in Germany after 1990 to parents from EU member states. Germany's large Turkish community is the group most affected by the current system.

Dual citizenship a loyalty problem?

Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish community, is a supporter of the campaign. "The government now has the opportunity to win over young people, if they forgo this law," he says.

The campaigners have set-up a website to argue their case that, until now, has found little public support. Their main message is that dual citizenship does not equate to a loyalty problem. Marieluise Beck of the Green Party says that forcing foreigners' children to choose a nationality creates a sense of mistrust between the state and children of migrants.

It is also a very emotional decision for many people. Dieter Wiefel-Spütz, the Social Democratic Party's domestic policy expert, told the "Frankfurter Rundschau" newspaper that, "the so-called 'options model' is a bureaucratic monster which tortures people."

This year around 3,900 young people with dual nationality in Germany will have to make their decision on whether to remain German or to become a foreigner.

vj/epd/dpa/Frankfurter Rundschau
Editor: Andreas Illmer