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Dual citizenship

August 23, 2010

Ahead of a debate in the German parliament in the autumn, three German non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have called on the government to remove obstacles to dual citizenship in order to aid integration.

A woman in a headscarf holding her certificate of nationalization
Many Turks in Germany would like the option of dual citizenshipImage: picture-alliance/ ZB

A group of German NGOs on Monday urged the government to reform the rules on dual citizenship, arguing that the current regulation is undemocratic and hinders integration.

"The problem is that the law is unfair. There's a trend in Germany and elsewhere for people to have more than one nationality," said Marei Pelzer, legal consultant for Pro Asyl, an organization that focuses on the rights of refugees and immigrants.

"We already have 4.5 million people in Germany with more than one nationality, around 53 percent of those being granted German citizenship have dual nationality," she told Deutsche Welle.

Teenagers of various backgrounds in front of German flag
NGOs: More than one nationality is becoming the norm

Duty to choose

Pro Asyl as well as two fellow NGOs, the Intercultural Council and the German Bar Association, have called for an overhaul of the current regulation, which dates back to the year 2000.

It forces anyone born in Germany after 1990 with non-German parents to either become German or take his or her parents' citizenship when they turn 18. They have until the age of 21 to make a final decision, meaning the first batch of young people will have to make that decision next year.

Being born in Germany gives them the right to German citizenship, but only if they give up their parents' nationality by the time they turn 21.

This so-called 'duty to choose', which is unique to Germany, is controversial, not least because there are countries, like Iran, Morocco, Afghanistan and some Latin American countries, which do not allow citizens to give up their nationality, so in those cases, dual nationality is already being granted, which creates what the NGOs call a two-class system.

woman with headscarf in crowd
Some countries don't allow citizens to give up their nationalityImage: AP

Parliament debate

Prior to 2000, the rules were even stricter - there was no automatic right to German citizenship, simply because someone was born in the country.

In the autumn, the German parliament will debate a bill introduced by the opposition parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, which calls for the restrictions on dual citizenship to be abolished.

But many members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party argue that citizenship is a question of loyalty.

"He or she has to accept German citizenship, that is all we're asking in terms of integration," Reinhard Grindel, Home Affairs Expert of the Christian Democrats in parliament, told German public radio Deutschlandradio Kultur.

"But that is non-negotiable. We're asking for a certain degree of commitment to our country and its laws and values, we don't think that's too much to ask," he said.

"Old-fashioned and undemocratic"

Pro Asyl, however, believes the government needs to modernize its understanding of nationality, if it is to be respected internationally.

"The government needs to recognize the signs of the times, it should not just preach the need for integration, but instead focus on creating the legal basis for a modern immigration state," Pelzer told Deutsche Welle.

"There are 82 million people in Germany, 6.7 million of those are not German nationals and 1.3 million were born here, but still don't have German citizenship. That's a problem for democracy, if people live here, but don't have the right to vote for example," she added.

Author: Nicole Goebel
Editor: Rob Turner

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