Germany’s Immigration Law Marks One Year | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 02.01.2006
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Germany’s Immigration Law Marks One Year

For years, Germany shied away from regulating immigration. Then, a year ago, it finally put a new immigration law on the books which seems to have achieved very little.


The new law hasn't done so much for immigrants in Germany

When Germany’s first immigration law went into effect on January 1, 2005, former Social Democrat Interior Minister Otto Schily hailed it as the most modern legislation on immigration in all of Europe.

The bill sought to integrate those immigrants who are already here, streamline asylum procedures and put provisions in place for the recruitment of highly skilled foreigner nationals who would help revive the German economy.

But its achievements have so far turned out to be rather modest.

The campaign to lure foreign nationals with cutting-edge knowledge to Germany -- one of the main planks of the bill -- has only managed to lure a meager 900 top-notch experts from abroad in the past year. That is a figure that countries such as the United States or Britain would laugh at.

Inadequate Provisions

Under a previous green-card-like scheme, some 2,200 foreign experts annually agreed to work in Germany. The reason why many highly skilled people shy away from moving to Germany is that their spouses do not automatically receive a work permit and wages for top performers are lower than elsewhere.

The bill also lacks a point system which would help select the most promising migrants

Koalitionsroulette nach der Bundestagswahl - Schwarz Gelb Grün

Legislators need to reform the law, experts say

But Michael Bommes, an immigration expert from Osnabrück, is hopeful that the governing grand coalition will soon make a number of necessary amendments.

"The floor is open to reform this law pretty soon I guess because you want to have certain skilled migrants," he said. "This simply means having a point system in order to attract those that are being excluded presently."

Some say an immigration bill cannot be assessed only on the success or failure to recruit the best brains. There are provisions in the law that aim to promote integration of immigrants, too. For those who are already in Germany, the bill has changed little but new arrivals are now entitled to German language and acclimatization courses concerning the country's culture and its democratic institutions.

Not welcome here

Still, many complain that the law fails to get the message across that foreigners are really welcome in Germany.

Rita Süssmuth, a former German lawmaker who’s been advising the government on immigration issues, says this is largely because it was a compromise drawn up by rival conservatives and Social Democrats amid growing fears of terrorist attacks and climbing unemployment figures.

"You can't integrate people if they don't feel welcome so we have to work on this," she said.

Die CDU-Vorsitzende Angela Merkel, rechts, spricht vor Beginn der Klausur des CDU/CSU-Fraktionsvorstandes in Berlin am Donnerstag, 13. Oktober 2005, mit dem Abgeordneten Norbert Lammert

Lammert and other conservatives are irritated over a lack of willingness to integrate

Conservative Germans like Bundestag president Norbert Lammert are aggrieved by the unwillingness of many migrants to take any interest in German society or learn the German language.

One Turkish girl from Berlin’s Wedding district agrees that this is a huge problem.

"There are Turkish markets, Turkish doctors, Turkish media and even Turkish banks," she said. "You don’t need any German to get along here."

Still, the immigration law has given residence permits to a large number of asylum seekers whose status had previously been in limbo. And security officials welcome another provision in the bill which permits foreign political and religious extremists to be deported more swiftly than in the past.

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