Germany’s Scholz says strong immigration may secure population boost to 90 million

Of note:

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday Germany could increase its population strongly in the years ahead as the government seeks to boost immigration to help avert labour shortages and a crisis in its pension system.

The government is working on attracting foreign workers to “keep the show on the road” despite an ageing population, making an estimated 7% rise in population to 90 million by 2070 plausible, Scholz told a citizen forum in Potsdam, near Berlin.

The German government last month agreed plans to reform immigration law, as Berlin seeks to open up the job market in Europe’s biggest economy to much-needed workers from outside the European Union.

The government has said it wants to boost immigration and training to tackle a skills shortage weighing on the German economy at a time of weakening growth, with an aging population piling pressure on the public pension system.

Scholz said that current population growth due in part to rising immigration meant the government might not to raise pension contributions before the end of its mandate in 2025.

Germany’s statistics office said last week the population would likely rise by 1 million to 84 million this year due to migration from Ukraine. It could reach 90 million in coming decades, if immigration was high, it added.

Source: Germany’s Scholz says strong immigration may secure population boost to 90 million

Mesut Özil’s case stirs debate on German nationality laws | Daily Sabah

Of interest (while or course Turkey erases identities of its Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian and Greek minorities):

In the mid-1900s, West Germany experienced the “Wirtschaftswunder” – which means “economic miracle” in German – but after the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961, West Germany’s labor crisis was exacerbated due to the fact that the flow of immigrants from East Germany was restricted. As a result of the shortage of workers, the West German government felt the need to sign a labor recruitment agreement with Türkiye on Oct. 30,1961, paving the way for Turkish people’s immigration to the country.

Since then, German legislators have time and time again failed to fully embrace the nation’s multiculturalism, and Germans of Turkish descent were not provided with a feasible path to citizenship. In addition, religious bigotry was also practiced against ethnic Turks who are overwhelmingly Muslims.

One of the most prominent signs for the fact that xenophobia peaked in the country was former Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) infamously telling former British Prime Minister, the “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher that he didn’t have a problem with European immigrants but that “Turks belong to a very distinct culture.” He also had the audacity to supply monetary inducements for them to return to Türkiye.

Only in the 1990s did Germany pave a path to citizenship for non-ethnic Germans who lived in the nation for over 15 years. And only at the dawn of the 21stt century, did the then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the lobbying by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Greens to lower this lengthy residency criteria to eight years for all and introduce a “jus soli” basis – or birthright citizenship – to be also valid alongside its current “jus sanguinis,” which is the ethnicity-based citizenship framework. This is glaringly different from the United States’ practice of automatically granting people born on American territory ID cards and passports. To qualify for citizenship, a child must have one parent who has lived legally in Germany for a minimum of eight years. “Until the end of the 1990s, you were a German or a foreigner. There was nothing in between,” Ferda Ataman, who is currently Germany’s anti-discrimination commissioner, previously said about the issue.

Still, Germany’s immigration policy evolved from refusal to reluctance. The SPD had to make compromises to get the new citizenship law past conservatives in the CDU and Free Democratic Party (FDP) which argued that permitting naturalized or Germans that got their citizenship through the “jus soli” basis to maintain their previous citizenship was an “act of provocation” that would “sow the seeds of division.”

Such opposition was laced with racism and right-wing German politicians complained such relaxation would lead to the “formation of ghettos.” The CDU opposed dual nationality and forced the SPD and Greens into incorporating a clause that kids who became German citizens under the jus soli framework and had a second nationality would have to choose one citizenship upon assuming legal adulthood. Ironically, this policy did not apply to the ethnic Germans who are dual citizens of both Germany and another country.

Nevertheless, a wholesale ban on dual citizenship, which, in theory, applied to all non-ethnic Germans, was particularly aimed at Turkish Germans and other Muslim minority immigrants. An exception was also granted to dual nationals of other European Union states and Switzerland – which sits right at the heart of the EU’s geography but rejects to join the bloc over its principle to stay neutral in global politics.

Mesut Özil case

I have researched and focused on such legal details to highlight their inherent inconsistencies and how they became part of Turkish-German football star Mesut Özil’s narrative. The footballer was born to a third-generation Turkish-German family in 1988 and only assumed German citizenship when he turned 17. He had to renege on his Turkish passport soon after. Though Özil was passionate to play for Germany back then, the compulsory decision seems to have left a deep emotional wound in his psyche.

Such realities also undermine Germany’s rhetoric on integration. Formerly a paragon of productive integration, Özil swiftly learned that this status would only be safeguarded by renouncing his Turkish roots. In his 2018 resignation, Özil blamed the former German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel, a former CDU member of parliament, for having “voted against legislation for dual nationalities” during his tenure.

The government already scrapped the dual citizenship provision for most naturalized and “jus soli” Germans who grew up in Germany in 2014 due to the lobbying by the SPD, and Germany is painstakingly adjusting to its multicultural composition, albeit hesitantly. This evolution was accelerated by the arrival of refugees in 2015 under the then-Chancellor Angela Merkel and by Özil’s resignation.

Özil’s withdrawal from the German national team was such a jolt to the country’s cohesion that it forced many ethnic Germans to deal with the bitter reality that their country was not as accommodating as they had perceived. Germany officially announced plans to speed up its naturalization process. Palestinian German politician Sawsan Chebli labeled the reality an “indictment of our country” and wondered if “we will ever belong? My doubts are growing daily.”

Ordinary Germans of color kicked off a huge social media campaign to share their lived experiences of racism under the hashtag “#MeTwo” – which essentially altered Germany’s debate with regard to racial issues, ethnicity and identity. And even Grindel apologized for his actions, vowing substantive reform within the DFB, lamenting that he “needed to stand by Mesut Özil.”

In 2022, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the SPD favored Reem Alabali-Radovan to be Germany’s first-ever federal anti-racism officer. And this past week, Scholz’s government confirmed that the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community headed by Nancy Faeser was promulgating new nationality reform. Faeser plans to lower the citizenship application residency requirement from eight to five years, a reduction that would also extend to jus soli provisions. She also plans to scrap all restrictions on dual citizenship.

Zero-sum game

If properly implemented, these are welcome first steps as they would offer representation and voting rights to over 9 million non-citizen residents who productively contribute to Germany’s economy and society. The conservatives’ obsession with dual citizenship was always illogical. “Belonging and identity are not a zero-sum game,” Scholz told the German parliament during a debate this week.

Expect opposition from the FDP and CDU, and outright rejection from Germany’s controversial far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has gained alarming political clout over the past decade. The AfD is often called “Neo-Nazi” because of apparent racism and xenophobia among its members, who embrace more controversial and populist stances against Scholz and Faeser’s more reasonable recommendations. CDU leader Friedrich Merz has warned of immigrants skirting integration and abusing the welfare state properties of Germany.

Scholz may not need the green light from the AfD and CDU to pass his recommendations, however, the FDP is a part of the current coalition and is likely to undermine the commendable reforms. It’s remarkable how out of touch these three parties’ comments are with Germany’s swiftly evolving cultural, social, sporting and economic journey over 20 years. Such inconsistencies are even more pronounced with Mesut Özil back in the news.

At FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the departure of Germany’s outstanding football legend Özil attests how his withdrawal represents a deep scar for a country that is deeply politically divided and still racially segregated, both on and off the football pitch. Scholz’s recommended new citizenship law will never undo the racist abuse faced by Mesut Özil, suffered by Ilkay Günoğan, experienced by Antonio Rüdiger, Son Hueng-Min and hundreds of other Germans of color and religious minorities, but it can mitigate Özil’s main complaint by reassessing more holistically what it means to “be German” in a post-modern, multiethnic multicultural society. It can also be a first step toward proving to a skeptical global public that Özil’s disastrous departure has become one of the leading causes for inclusive reform in a country where segregation and racism still exist. This is Germany’s moment of reckoning; with itself, its past and also its future.

Source: Mesut Özil’s case stirs debate on German nationality laws | Daily Sabah

German government defends plan to ease citizenship rules

Watching with interest on how the debate and discussion proceeds given significance of shift (disclosure our son in Germany would benefit from these changes):

Germany’s government on Monday defended a plan to make it easier for people to apply for citizenship, countering complaints from within the ruling coalition and the opposition that it might encourage illegal immigration.

The government has said it wants to boost immigration and training to tackle a skills shortage weighing on Europe’s largest economy at a time of weakening growth, and when an aging population is piling pressure on the public pension system.

A position paper obtained by Reuters – and earlier reported on by the German news site t-online – shows the government wants to do that in part by sigificantly reducing the income threshhold for migration and introducing a points system.

“Anyone who lives and works here on a permanent basis should also be able to vote and be elected, they should be part of our country with all the rights and duties that go with it,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a televised immigration forum.

“And this should be completely independent of origin, skin colour or religious affiliation,” he added.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, from Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), has outlined plans to cut the maximum number of years a person must wait before becoming a citizen from eight to five, and lift restrictions on dual nationality.

German language requirements for citizenship would also be eased for members of the so-called “Gastarbeiter” generation, many of them Turkish, who came to Germany in the 1950s and 1960s as migrant workers.

Scholz further said that Germany, echoing a policy in other countries, would introduce a “transparent, unbureaucratic” immigration points system to allow foreigners who have the right qualifications to apply for work.

It would also be made easier to study or obtain qualifications in Germany, he said.

Scholz defended allowing immigrants to hold dual citizenship, arguing that “belonging and identity are not a zero-sum game.”

The draft legislation will be discussed by cabinet on Wednesday, Scholz said, after which it must be put to lawmakers in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

The secretary-general of the FDP, the junior partner in coalition with the SPD and environmentalist Greens, has spoken out against the plan. In an interview with the Rheinische Post, Bijan Djir-Sarai questioned its timing while decrying a lack of progress on deportations and combating illegal migration.

Faeser played down differences in the coalition and said that all parties had signed up to the plan in their coalition agreement. The legal changes could take effect in the summer of 2023, she added.

Source: German government defends plan to ease citizenship rules

Germany ‘needs better rules’ for citizenship: Scholz

Change is coming and we will see whether the changes prompt much debate:

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday called for reforms to the country’s citizenship regulations, a day after the Interior Ministry said draft legislation on the citizenship process was “as good as ready.”

“Naturalization needs better rules,” Scholz said in a tweet Saturday. “It’s about respect and, of course, about our prosperity. Because all these women and men contribute to a strong economy. It is good if they also opt for German citizenship.”he said.

In his weekly video message, Scholz emphasized the integral role that immigrants have played in rebuilding and strengthening Germany, according to media reports. “Germany has become a country of hope for many,” the chancellor said. “The women and men and sometimes children who came to Germany have contributed greatly to making our economy as strong as it is today.”

Changing the citizenship rules is one of the reforms that the three-party coalition promised when it took office in December 2021.

German newspaper Bild on Friday reported that the Interior Ministry is preparing draft legislation that would enable foreigners residing in Germany to apply for naturalization after five years instead of eight. The ministry said proposals were still under discussion, according to the report.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Friday that reducing the waiting time to be eligible for citizenship is “an incentive for integration,” the Associated Press reported. “We are a diverse, modern country of immigration, and I think legislation must reflect that,” she said.

The Interior Ministry said on Friday that draft legislation is “as good as ready,” the AP reported.

Source: Germany ‘needs better rules’ for citizenship: Scholz

Date set for Bundestag debate on dual German citizenship

Of note:

As part of a major overhaul of the country’s immigration policy, the German traffic-light coalition government has set a date to debate a draft law that would allow dual citizenship for residents.

Bundestag to debate German dual citizenship

Until now, the prospect of dual German citizenship seemed impossible for many of the country’s migrants. But yesterday evening The Localannounced in an exclusive article that the Bundestag will debate a new draft law which would allow dual German citizenship. This means that migrants with non-EU nationality would be able to naturalise as German citizens without having to sacrifice their other citizenship status. The policy was first brought to the table as a cornerstone of the traffic-light coalition agreement last year.

The new law would also minimise the time that non-German nationals have to wait before beginning the naturalisation process. The timeline is expected to be reduced from eight years to five years. In some cases, where applicants prove that they are integrated into German society and can certify German language proficiency, they would be able to apply for naturalisation after just three years living and working in Germany.

“People who come here, build a life for themselves and feel a permanent connection to Germany should be able to naturalise quickly,” FDP member of the Bundestag’s interior committee, Stephan Thomae, told The Local. “We want people who live with us, who have integrated well linguistically, legally, economically, and culturally, who contribute to our society’s success and fulfil their responsibilities – to also have the associated rights and make them a permanent offer of integration.”

As of yet there is no set date when the law would come into effect, but it is certain that long-term residents eligible to apply for naturalisation can expect a wait while details of the bill are ironed out before it can come into law. Speaking to The Local, the chair of the SPD body in the Bundestag’s interior committee, Sebastian Hartmann, said, “If the cabinet makes its expected decision in December, we should be able to complete the parliamentary procedure by summer 2023 at the latest.”

Residency versus citizenship rights in Germany

While people with temporary German residency can be granted the security of permanent residence, this status does not come with the same rights and security as holding German citizenship. Over the past years, these circumstances seemed unlikely to change, as Angela Merkel’s CDU were firmly opposed to updating citizenship laws.

Until now, residents in Germany have been able to apply for German citizenship through three methods: through naturalisation (Einbürgerung) after eight years of living in Germany; by right of blood (Abstammungsprinzip) if you are a direct descendant of a German parent; and by right of soil (Geburtsortsprinzip) if you were born within German borders to non-German parents.

The limitations of the latter method, that at least one of your parents must have been a permanent resident in Germany for at least eight years and possess the necessary permissions to remain in Germany indefinitely, means that many people with migrant backgrounds in Germany who were born and have grown up in the country, do not hold citizenship.

Since only those who hold a German passport are entitled to vote in German elections at federal level, the introduction of a dual nationality law could also impact Germany’s voting tendencies. According to broadcaster ZDF, 14 percent of the German population over the age of 18 (9,7 million people) were not eligible to vote in the country’s federal elections last autumn.

Source: Date set for Bundestag debate on dual German citizenship

Germany: Thousands of immigrants could gain regular status

Of note, further change:

The German government is hoping to give over 130,000 migrants trapped in legal limbo the chance to stay permanently, as part of an overhaul of Germany’s immigration system.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz‘s government on Wednesday agreed on a package of reforms that will open the prospect of residency rights to people who have lived in Germany for more than five years with a so-called Duldung, or tolerance status.

“We are a diverse immigration country. Now we want to become a better integration country,”  Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrat SPD, wrote on Twitter. “I want to actively shape migration and integration instead of reluctantly administering them as I have done for the past 16 years,” she continued in reference to the previous conservative government’s policies.

A Duldung is normally issued to people who have been refused asylum but who can’t return to their home country for various reasons: These might include the threat of war or arrest in their home country, pregnancy or serious illness, or because they are studying or in job training in Germany. Legally, however, they remain obliged to leave the country and live under the threat of deportation.

Asylum gray zone

A Duldung is only valid for a short time, and people can be granted the status several times in a row often with no prospect of being allowed to work. Under the new scheme, proposed by Faeser, people who have had a Duldung for five years  could be eligible for a one-year “opportunity residency” status, during which time they have to prove a willingness to integrate: which in practice would mean learning German and finding a job capable of securing their income.

Such migrants would have to meet certain conditions: Anyone convicted of a serious crime, applied for asylum under a false identity, or who had submitted multiple applications, would be barred from the option. There are exceptions to the criminal conviction rule: crimes that were punished with a low fine or in a young offenders’ court will be overlooked.

Karl Kopp, director for European affairs at the refugee rights organization Pro Asyl, said he has met many people caught in this legal limbo. “Imagine you have tolerance status, you have family, you have children in school here who speak fluent German, who grew up here,” he told DW. “And at some point all you want is a status that makes it clear that you belong to this country. All you want is for the uncertainty to stop.”

“Many others live with a concrete fear for years: The police are going to come to deport them,” he said. “This drains them of energy and causes a lot of suffering.”

Kopp also said he knew of many cases of people with tolerance status who have job training places, and their employers have to fight to allow them to stay in the country.

The government integration commissioner, Reem Alabali-Radovan, wrote on Twitter that the new legislation would be a bridge to a better life for around 135,000 people in Germany. “We are reshaping Germany as a modern immigration country. A first important step: With the right of residence, there will finally be fair prospects for all those who have been living here on a tolerated basis for 5+ years. We are also opening up access to integration courses for everyone.”

Opposition politicians have voiced criticism. Alexander Throm, domestic policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that the government’s plans would create “massive incentives” for illegal immigration to Germany. “On top of that, the coalition is undermining asylum law with this initiative,” Throm told the RND news network.

“There has to be a difference between whether an asylum procedure ends with protection status or whether an asylum application is rejected,” he added. “But if a rejected application also leads to being allowed to stay in Germany permanently, then the asylum procedure itself becomes largely pointless.”

Green Party co-leader Omid Nouripour defended the measure, claiming that it would help ease Germany’s acute shortage of skilled workers. “We are opening new prospects for people,” he told the Funke media network. “Part of that is a modern immigration law based on a points system. For that reason, it’s right that this draft law will also consolidate regulations from the skilled labor immigration law.”

Baby steps towards integration

Refugee organizations have applauded the government’s general approach, but remain skeptical of the execution. “We welcome the intention to give over 100,000 people a regular status,” said Kopp of Pro Asyl. “But we also point out a few problems where we think the legislation needs to be more precise.”

For one thing, Kopp says it’s too tough to force people to try to fulfill the necessary conditions for residency within a year or risk falling back into tolerance status.

“We’d like to see more humanitarian flexibility,” he said. “It could easily be that someone goes out looking for a job but doesn’t succeed because of the economic situation.” He also said he’d like to see the new law include a provision stopping the threat of deportation for anyone eligible for residency under the new scheme.

Integration Commissioner Alabali-Radovan stressed that this current package was just “the first milestone,” and that more plans would be implemented before the end of the year, including measures allowing migrants better access to the job market and naturalization.

Source: Germany: Thousands of immigrants could gain regular status

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

Of note, another nail in the coffin of the guest worker approach:

Tens of thousands of migrants, who have been living in Germany for years without long-lasting permission to remain in the country, will be eligible for permanent residency after the government approved a new migration bill Wednesday.

The new regulation, endorsed by the Cabinet, applies to about 136,000 people who have lived in Germany for at least five years by Jan. 1, 2022.

Those who qualify can first apply for a one-year residency status and subsequently apply for permanent residency in Germany. They must earn enough money to make an independent living in the country, speak German and prove that they are “well integrated” into society.

Those under the age of 27 can already apply for a path to permanent residency in Germany after having lived in the country for three years.

“We want people who are well integrated to have good opportunities in our country,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters. “In this way, we also put an end to bureaucracy and uncertainty for people who have already become part of our society.”

The new migration regulation will also make it easier for asylum-seekers to learn German — so far only those with a realistic chance of receiving asylum in the country were eligible for language classes — with all asylum applicants getting the chance to enroll in classes.

For skilled laborers, such as information technology specialists and others that hold professions that are desperately needed in Germany, the new regulation will allow that they can move to Germany together with their families right away, which wasn’t possible before. Family members don’t need to have any language skills before moving to the country.

“We need to attract skilled workers more quickly. We urgently need them in many sectors,” Faeser said. “We want skilled workers to come to Germany very quickly and gain a foothold here.”

The bill will also make it easier to deport criminals, includes extending detention pending deportation for certain offenders from three months to a maximum of six months. The extension is intended to give authorities more time to prepare for deportation, such as clarifying identity, obtaining missing papers and organizing a seat on an airplane, German news agency dpa reported.

“In the future, it will be easier to revoke the right of residence of criminals,” Faeser said. “For offenders, we will make it easier to order detention pending deportation, thus preventing offenders who are obliged to leave the country from going into hiding before being deported.”

Source: Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration: Turkish immigration in Germany study

Of interest:

New research finds that policies granting permanent residency to immigrants conditional on acquiring host country skills—like language—are most likely to generate higher fiscal contributions to the host country through income taxes. In fact, immigrants with a preference for remaining in the host country develop social contacts and other specific skills that allow them to find better paid jobs and stay for a longer time.

As immigration worldwide increases, host countries are faced with crucial policy decisions aimed at maximizing immigrants’ economic contributions. Designing the right policies requires understanding exactly how immigrants make their decision to migrate and return to their country of origin. Bocconi University, Milan, professors Jérôme Adda and Joseph-Simon Goerlach, with co-author Christian Dustmann (University College London), in a forthcoming article in The Review of Economic Studies, develop and estimate a that provides key insights into the decision-making process of immigrants. They find that immigrants’ expectations for the length of their stay and their location preferences can explain their decisions to invest in career improving skills, their acceptance of lower-paying jobs compared to natives, and how they respond to immigration policies on the duration and possibility of permanent residence.

While previous research focused only on productivity differences between immigrants to explain their career profiles, the authors argue that location preferences could be crucial in determining how much immigrants invest in acquiring skills that consequently impact their career profiles. For instance, an who prefers the host country and intends to stay permanently may invest more in learning the local language, familiarizing themselves with the local labor market, and developing social contacts and other host country-specific skills. Alternatively, a migrant with a location for their original country may not invest in these skills as they are likely undervalued back there. The authors model this preference and estimate the impact of location preferences and planned migration duration using data from surveys of Turkish immigrants in Germany over three decades, starting from 1961.

Indeed they find that immigrants who remain are higher-skilled due to their conscious investment in host-country skills. Their model is also able to explain why immigrants may be more willing to accept low-paid jobs compared to natives. They argue that immigrants from countries that have a lower price level and who want to return home would face higher effective wages since their wage allows them to consume more at home over their lifetime. Knowing this may encourage temporary migrants to accept lower-paid jobs.

The authors also use their model to compare three different types of prevalent today that grant permanent residency after 5 years either conditional on:

  1. An earning threshold (like the UK);
  2. Acquiring host-specific skills such as language (like in some countries of the EU);
  3. Granted randomly with 30% probability.

The authors find that scheme 1 selects for high productivity migrants and scheme 2 for those with a high preference for the host country.

Assuming a population of 25-year-olds migrating to Germany in 1970 as an example to estimate on, the earning threshold rule would generate an annual per capita increase in tax payments by €782 compared to if the policy wasn’t there. The host-specific skills rule would generate an average annual tax gain of €789 and fewer tax losses due to fewer individuals leaving the host country. The random lottery instead leads to a decrease in average annual taxes by €633 since the expected returns to investing in host country skills are reduced due to the scheme’s reliance on random chance. Furthermore, schemes 1 and 3, due to the barriers they pose to seeking permanent residency, reduce total immigration by about 26% whereas the host-specific skills rule does so by around 3%.

Thus, the authors show how these schemes could have differential impacts when one accounts for not only immigrants’ productivities but also their location preference / expected duration of stay. As the recent Ukrainian refugee crisis shows, such considerations are crucial for both the host countries’ goals as well as the lives and decisions of the arriving immigrants and their integration and acceptance in societies.

Source: New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration

Germans less skeptical of immigration

Significant shift with respect to skilled immigrants, concerns re refugees (similar pattern in Canada):

Christian Osterhaus knows only too well what the term Willkommenskultur (“welcome culture”) means: When hundreds of thousands of people seeking protection arrived in Germany in 2015, he was one of the first to co-found a local refugee aid organization.

“We didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past,” he tells DW. By welcoming the refugees, he and his team wanted to show “that we don’t exclude people again.” With around 30 fellow campaigners, Osterhaus got involved in Bonn in the fall of 2015. The group cared for 40 to 50 refugees, most of whom came from Syria.

Osterhaus was one of hundreds of thousands of people in Germany who set out to help those fleeing civil war in Syria and other countries, and to help integrate them into German society. “We wanted to give these people a new home,” Osterhaus says looking back.

The special effort at integration became known as Germany’s welcome culture. But in 2015 and 2016, many people also had little understanding for this attitude. They did not want to take in refugees and migrants. The xenophobic protest movement gave rise to the far-right populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

More people see benefits of migration

In its representative study “Willkommenskultur zwischen Stabilität und Aufbruch,” (Welcome Culture Between Stability and Departure) the nonprofit Bertelsmann Foundation has now taken a closer look at changes in Germans’ attitudes and identified a trend: Germans are more optimistic about migration and immigration than they were a few years ago.

“In essence, our survey shows that skepticism toward immigration is still widespread in Germany, but it has continually declined in recent years,” says Ulrike Wieland, co-author of the study: “More people now see the potential benefits of migration; especially for the economy. When it comes to perceptions of integration, we find that more respondents than in previous years see inequality of opportunity and discrimination as significant obstacles hampering integration of individuals.”

The Bertelsmann Foundation has been conducting representative surveys since 2012. In the beginning, the researchers set out to determine how Germans felt about the immigration of skilled workers. But in response to the influx of large numbers of refugees in 2015-2016, researchers wanted to gauge attitudes towards these people.

As to long-term effects of immigration, positive and negative assessments roughly balance each other out. But the debate on refugees has somewhat tipped the scales.

Today, many see immigration as a way to help solve Germany’s demographic and economic problems. For example, two out of three respondents see immigration as helping to balance out an aging society, more than half of those polled said it could also compensate for the ongoing shortage of skilled workers, and half of all respondents expect immigrants to generate additional revenue for Germany’s pension fund.

But many respondents remain skeptical: 67% say that immigrants place an additional burden on the welfare state, 66% say they worry about conflicts erupting between people born and raised in Germany and immigrants, and many respondents fear that schools are facing major problems integrating immigrant students.

But there is an important differentiation to make: skilled immigrants seeking employment or academic opportunities are more accepted (71%) than refugees who are primarily seeking protection (59 %).

More than a third don’t want more refugees

The Bertelsmann Foundation study also clearly shows that there is still a lot of skepticism in Germany when it comes to refugees.

Christian Osterhaus notes that many helpers have turned away because of the decrease in acceptance for their work for refugees. “In the beginning we were part of a social movement and felt supported, but for several years we have been working against the social mainstream,” is how Osterhaus describes it to DW.

Germans have overall become more accepting of refugees. But over one-third of respondents (36%) believe that Germany cannot take in any more of them. In 2017, that number stood at 54%. Currently, 20% consider the refugees to be “temporary guests” who do not need to be integrated into society.

“We see that one-fifth of the population is skeptical of refugees or outright rejects them. These people seem to have a worldview that supports the idea of a (far-reaching) social closure against migration,” explains co-author Ulrike Wieland.

Germany should see itself as an immigration society,’ says the study’s co-author, Ulrike Wieland

People with an immigrant background are underrepresented in politics, corporate management and the media in Germany. Respondents see German language skills as a pivotal prerequisite to integration. But many of them also believe that legislation needs to be changed to combat existing inequality when it comes to finding housing, dealing with authorities or schools.

The new coalition government of center-left Social Democrats (SPD), environmentalist Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) has already made clear it wants to focus more on integration. For example, they are planning to ensure that even rejected asylum seekers are given the opportunity to stay in Germany permanently if they have learned German and have found work to earn a sufficient income. Family reunification is to be extended to all refugees and it is to become easier to obtain German nationality.

That is basically the right way to go, says researcher Ulrike Wieland: “But it is also important for Germany to develop a positive self-image as an immigration society. To achieve this, politicians and civil society must work together. They must actively shape a diverse society.”

Aid worker Christian Osterhaus looks back at when he started working with refugees: “At the time, I really had the impression that German society had opened up and changed and had actually learned a lot.” He believes that interpersonal connections and friendships are the foundation for the path to building a real welcome culture in Germany.

Source: Germans less skeptical of immigration

German integration chief plans to ‘advertise’ to migrants with citizenship revamp

Of note:

Germany’s integration chief has said she wants to advertise the country to migrants and smooth their path to citizenship, as the country looks to plug expected gaps in the workforce.

Reem Alabali-Radovan said Germany was “in competition with other countries”, such as Canada, to attract migrants with the prospect of a good life and a path to German nationality.

Concerns over worker shortages are fuelled by an ageing population in Europe’s biggest economy, with the number of working-age people projected to decline by 150,000 a year.

Germany has historically been wary of dual citizenship, with some people forced to choose only one passport when they turn 18. But the three parties which formed a coalition last month have promised to loosen these rules.

“Germany has to present itself as a modern country of immigration that offers new prospects,” Ms Alabali-Radovan, who is Secretary for Migration, Refugees and Integration in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office, told the newspaper Tagesspiegel.

She said she wanted to support ministers in “advertising Germany” to potential workers.

“I see it as my task to work towards making people here want to stay here,” she said. “There’s much more to that than a work contract – we also need language courses, housing, schools and a chance to be part of society.”

Berlin’s tone contrasts with that of Britain, where Conservative ministers tout stricter migration rules as an accomplishment of Brexit, and France, where right-wing candidates are taking hard lines before April’s presidential election.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Germany after the 2015 migration crisis similarly led to a backlash on the right.

But the centre-left government that took power last month has promised to shorten the period for naturalisation to five years, instead of eight, and simplify the process of obtaining nationality.

Some migrants may be exempted from language requirements if they cannot afford lessons, while the threshold will be lowered for descendants of the mainly Turkish “guest worker” generation of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ms Alabali-Radovan said existing laws meant workers such as carers and tradespeople were facing the threat of deportation because they had only a temporary status in Germany.

“We have a shortage of skilled workers – we need them, we don’t want to deport them,” she said.

The head of Germany’s labour agency last year said the country would need 400,000 immigrants a year to fill its workforce.

Germany has separately promised to take in thousands of vulnerable Afghans, after refugees described fears and bureaucratic delays in the weeks after the Taliban took power.

Ms Alabali-Radovan, 31, is the child of Iraqi parents who left their home country after opposing former president Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Born in Moscow in the last days of the Soviet Union, she moved to Germany in 1996 and settled in the east of the country.

Source: German integration chief plans to ‘advertise’ to migrants with citizenship revamp