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Residence Granted

DW staff (win)November 14, 2006

The German government on Tuesday reached a compromise on how to deal with some 200,000 foreigners whose applications for asylum have been turned down, but who are not deported for humanitarian reasons.

Some of those affected by the compromise fled Kosovo in 1999Image: AP

Most of the 200,000 people in question come from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. They've lived in Germany because the country tolerates them without offering them the prospect of obtaining full-fledged residence permits.

At least once a year they have to see the authorities who may or may not decide to prolong their stay in Germany. The foreigners' undefined status is coupled with many disadvantages on the labor market and problems in social integration.

On Tuesday, Germany's ruling Christian and Social Democrats said they had reached a deal on new and clearer legislation. It will make the granting of residence status dependent on the number of years someone has been in Germany. Aside from any other requirements, individuals will be able to receive a two-year residence permit if they've lived here for at least eight years, or six years if they have children.

During those two years, they will have to prove that they can find gainful employment and support themselves. Should they fail to do so, they will lose their residence permit and fall back to tolerated status. Social Democrats had pushed for giving people residence permits first before asking them to find employment.

Broader access to labor market

Symbolbild Stellensuche Bewerbungsschreiben Jobsuche Arbeitslosigkeit
Social Democrats hope the new regulation will make job applications easierImage: Bilderbox

"We just have to face the realities," said Dieter Wiefelspütz, the domestic policy spokesman for the Social Democrats. "The people we're talking about are confronted with enormous difficulties in finding employment. After all, it's the state itself which has set up all sorts of hurdles. So let's look to the future and help them to broaden their access to the labor market instead of telling them that a job is a prerequisite for staying here."

Christian Democrats on the other hand had called for granting permits only once people have found work.

Strain on welfare system?

Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein of the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, has insisted that permanent residence status must only be granted to those who can support their families without having to fall back on state welfare money.

Amtsstube - Akten
Conservatives want to prevent additional cases of welfare recipientsImage: dpa

"We just won't accept tens of thousands of people more to strain the country's already overburdened social systems," he said on German public television. "So it would be strange to grant residence status to someone who's just not able to look after his family. And it's no solution for them to be working illegally. They don't pay any taxes, and should not be rewarded for this now. It would be like saying that it's okay to give somebody a driving license just because he's been driving a car illegally for many years."

Protecting children

Members of Germany's main opposition party, the free-market, liberal Free Democrats, meanwhile said they were most interested in finding a humane solution for affected school-age children who were born in Germany.

Kinder Schulweg
Deporting children to a country that's strange to them is inhumane, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger saysImage: AP

"These kids don't know the countries of their parents' origin at all," said Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former federal justice minister. "All they know is Germany, here is where they live. Do you want to send them to, say, Afghanistan or Iraq? That would be ridiculous. After all, we're talking about human beings with real biographies, and not just about figures and quota."

The interior ministers of Germany's 16 states are expected to fine-tune the agreement at a meeting on Thursday and Friday.