Germany’s incoming government plans to improve asylum seekers’ rights, facilitate immigration for skilled workers, and simplify the process of acquiring German nationality.
Immigration was a defining issue of Germany’s 2017 election campaign after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the door to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015.
Although it was not one of the main issues in this year’s election, it has moved up the political agenda again as thousands of migrants have tried to enter the European Union via Belarus in recent weeks.
A coalition deal agreed by the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) said the new government planned to make Germany a more appealing destination for migrants, while making life easier for asylum seekers who are willing to integrate.
The alliance also agreed to introduce a law to make multiple citizenship possible. Becoming a German citizen generally requires a person to give up any other passports, though there are exemptions, including for citizens of other EU countries.
“As a rule, naturalization should be possible after five years, with special integration achievements after three years,” the document said. That compares to eight years and six years respectively at the moment.
The new law will grant children born in Germany to foreign parents German citizenship if one of the parents has been legally residing in Germany for five years.
The law targets Germany’s ‘guest-worker’ generation of migrants, who came from southern Europe and Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s and contributed to the postwar “economic miracle”.
Some could not be naturalized even after living in Germany for decades due to language requirements or because they did not want to give up their original citizenship.
The wording of a controversial naturalization prerequisite of “living according to German life style” will be replaced with clearer criteria in the new law.
Keen to tackle a shortage of skilled workers that has held back economic recovery, Germany’s new government will improve access to study and apprenticeship for foreigners. Visa processing will also be simplified.
Asylum seekers with temporary status will be able to obtain more secure residency and bring in their families after four to six years if they integrate well.
Guenter Burkhardt, managing director of PRO ASYL refugee rights group, welcomed the deal but said more was needed to improve asylum seekers’ rights.
“Deportations to war and crisis areas are not clearly excluded,” he said.
Photo – EPA-EFE/OMER MESSINGER