The Bavarian government is interpreting the new integration laws in its own way. Many refugees have been denied vocational training opportunities and Bavarian businesses are upset about this.
Obaid is an eager beaver, but a likeable one. The 18-year-old is a class representative and has A's in math, German and physical education, as he modestly, yet proudly reveals. At the beginning of this year, Obaid came to Germany as a refugee from Afghanistan and is now working hard to graduate from his vocational training school in Munich. "I hope I get the chance to complete an apprenticeship," he says in almost perfect German. He is interested in working in retail. But he is not sure if he will get the chance to do so because of the German state he lives in – Bavaria.
In August, the new integration laws came into effect in Germany. In most cases, the laws make it easier for refugees to access the German labor market. Something known as the "three-plus two-regulation," which is anchored in the legislation, allows asylum seekers to stay in the country and not be deported during their three-year apprenticeship. After they graduate, they are granted a two-year work permit so they can continue working in their profession. The regulation not only provides refugees with security but also the companies who invest in their vocational training. That way, the business can benefit from skilled workers and not suddenly lose newly trained employees.
Slim chances for Afghans
However, the Bavarian state government does not interpret the laws the same way that other German states do. In a statement to local immigration authorities at the beginning of September, the interior ministry clearly set out its approach: the chances of beginning an apprenticeship drop if a refugee comes from a country that means there is little prospect of getting permanent residency in Germany. Obaid comes from one of these countries: Afghanistan.
Even refugees who have received unfavorable decisions regarding their asylum status have a harder time beginning vocational training. This is because federal integration laws stipulate that refugees who have a residence permit cannot begin vocational training as soon as the process known as "termination of the stay" has been set in motion. Other German states interpret the "termination" as the moment the asylum seeker books a flight home. Bavaria defines this point of time much earlier. Refugees who have been summoned to "appear in person in their country's representative office abroad in order to apply for a passport or passport supplement," generally are not allowed to begin an apprenticeship. This step is usually followed directly by a rejection letter – a point in time when the affected person may wait years for the actual deportation. At worst, it means years of doing nothing.
Schools are afraid
"Bavaria is actually completely undermining the intention of the 'three-plus-two' regulation," says Stephan Dünnwald from the Bavarian Refugee Council. Many young people have been robbed of job prospects. They have been banished to idleness after graduating from high school. The Bavarian method is especially hard on people who come from the so-called safe countries of origin. Anyone who applied for asylum after August 31, 2015 has no hope of being given vocational training anywhere in Germany. However, in Bavaria, even young people who have lived in Germany for years have barely any chance of beginning an apprenticeship. One of Obaid's classmates was offered two apprenticeship contracts but the authorities did not issue him the required permit.
Normal instruction is almost impossible at schools where young refugees prepare for graduation. "Fear prevails," says Antonia Veramendi, principal of Munich's "SchlaU" school, which only teaches refugees. Many students show either aggressive behavior or apathy. The number of physical breakdowns is growing. "They ask themselves why they should invest any energy or effort since they cannot begin an apprenticeship here anyway," reports Veramendi.
Bavarian businesses are furious
Bavaria's interior ministry claims it is implementing federal laws and that there are still ways for asylum seekers or refugees with residence entitlements to complete vocational training. "It is not acceptable that someone quickly begins an apprenticeship to avoid deportation," said a spokesperson from the Bavarian ministry. The Bavarian Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, believes that Bavaria is interpreting the laws too narrowly. The business organization is critical of the authorities' methods, saying that they discourage refugees and also hinder the integration efforts being made by Bavarian businesses.
But while the number of businesses in Bavarian cities and communities willing to hire refugees is growing, they are not allowed to do so. Bernard Ried, the owner of a plumbing and heating business in the Bavarian town of Obertaufkirchen, wanted to hire an Afghan asylum seeker as an apprentice. The young man had previously completed an internship in Ried's company. He is "a nice and hard-working guy," said Ried, adding that the young man is "someone who is hands-on." The contract for the apprenticeship had been drafted but the local immigration authorities rejected it, noting that the young man will not be recognized as a refugee because of his country of origin. "I don't understand it," said Ried. "It would have been a win-win situation."
Last week, Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann met with business representatives and other institutions for round table discussions. The interior ministry will reveal the results of the meeting in the coming weeks. The ministry says that misunderstandings have been cleared up. There was also talk of compromise, albeit one that is barely satisfactory. Until the effects of the compromise reach them, Obaid and many other young people in Bavaria can do nothing but hope and wait.