March has been a month of decisions and dispute on migration in Germany. The most discussed event has been the tabling of a draft bill on dual citizenship by the ruling coalition of Conservatives (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) at the end of last week. Previously, children born in Germany to non-German parents were issued a passport at birth in addition to the citizenship of their parents’ origin but were required to renounce either the German or the other citizenship at age 23. According to the proposed new rule, it is now possible to retain both German and any foreign citizenship on the condition that the person was born in Germany and has lived there for at least eight years or attended a German school for a minimum of six years.
Existing regulations on dual citizenship are somewhat discriminatory, as attaining a passport in addition to one of an EU member country or Switzerland is relatively easy. It is most prominently the children of Turkish descent, born and raised in Germany, who are at present forced to decide for one or the other nationality when coming of age. The new rule (to be decided on in Parliament in the next months) is characterised by compromise between the social-democratic side advocating “a modern citizenship law” without introducing too radical a change and the Conservatives’ anxious eye on their electorate and its reservations against the dilution of nationality regulations. Representatives of the Turkish community in Germany criticised the draft as too complicated and its requirement to prove a minimum period of residence in Germany as redundant.
Further debate dealt with increased immigration from EU-member states. The month began with the news that the number of foreign residents is at a record high of 7.6 million, the bulk of new arrivals coming from Eastern member states such as Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania who benefit from the new unrestricted freedom to seek work in the entire EU. This has prompted the government to highlight the strain this is placing on municipal welfare budgets, announcing measures to curb “abuse”. This will include limiting the allowed time to search for work and to deny re-entry to those having violated regulations. There is, however, a contradiction between these statements and the government’s continued emphasis on European unrestricted freedom of movement as well as the actual numbers being nowhere close to threatening to the German welfare budget.
In Berlin, refugees are still protesting their treatment by authorities on Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg. A counter-demonstration staged by the far-right group Pro Deutschland mid-month saw a somewhat weak turn-out of 3 and was met by a crowd of 300 refugee supporters. Last week, an agreement between municipal government and refugees was reported to dismantle the camp in return for an individual review of asylum claims. Previously, there had been a number of threats by authorities to evacuate the square which never materialised. Shortly after the announcement, refugees expressed their disagreement with the deal and the intention to keep fighting.
“Migrationist Monthly” is a new series on The Migrationist. Once a month, we’ll be offering you a rundown of that month’s immigration news for selected countries in 500 words or less.