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

Diversity in the Bundestag

Dramatic change:

When it comes to diversity in the Bundestag, last year’s federal elections in Germany produced the most diverse parliament in the country’s history. The 2021-2025 Bundestag contains a record number (83) of parliamentarians from migrant communities – legislators who are not, or have at least one parent who is not, a German citizen. Moreover, over a third (35%) of legislators are now women, including the legislature’s two first openly transgender lawmakers.

Meanwhile, and for only the third time in its history, the presidency of the Bundestag is also filled by a woman – the Social Democratic Party of Germany’s (SPD) Bärbel Bas, assisted by four female Vice-Presidents from across the political spectrum. Newly inducted Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also preside over Germany’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

This increase in diversity is largely due to a jump in votes for the SPD and the Greens, two of Germany’s most diverse parliamentary parties. Both have gender quotas for candidate selection, with over half of the Greens’ parliamentary party, and over 40% of SPD legislators, being women. The SPD (9.8%) and the Greens (14.9%) also have a greater proportion of candidates from migrant backgrounds than the CDU/CSU (2.9%).

Following the successful coalition talks between the SPD, the Greens and the Liberals, it appears that a more diverse set of legislators will wield power than ever before.

Intuitively, the Bundestag’s greater diversity is to be welcomed. A parliament which better reflects the society it purports to represent fulfils the criteria of descriptive representation: the country’s population is more accurately reflected in the makeup of its legislature.

This symbolic representation can not only engender legitimacy but can also reduce feelings of alienation amongst otherwise marginalised groups.

Given increased rates of misogynist violence, crimes against LGBTQ+ people, and ethnic discrimination in Germany, the greater visibility of minorities in mainstream politics may provide reassurance to those communities that feel vulnerable.

But what about the implications of greater descriptive representation for parliament’s substantive work? Symbolic representation certainly does have its benefits but alone is insufficient.

To be well represented, marginalized and vulnerable groups need parliamentarians to advocate for their interests, transform political agendas, and influence political debate.

There is clear evidence that minority legislators feel a sense of responsibility to do so, be that by asking parliamentary questions, scrutinising legislation, or proposing bills. In Germany, there is certainly legislation which could better reflect the needs and lived experience of minority groups.

Angela Merkel’s National Action Plan, designed to facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into German society after 2015, focused heavily on language classes and employment as a means of assimilation, and has beencriticised for its failure to combat negative perceptions of, and attitudes towards, immigrant communities.

Similarly, calls for reform to the German law on Self-ID, which currently subjects individuals to large fees and invasive psychological assessment, have to date failed to catch legislators’ attention. The election of two trans representatives may, at a minimum, raise awareness of the issue, and even inform the thinking of governing parties.

Indeed, preliminary evidence seems promising. The Government’s newly minted coalition agreement proposes fundamental change to self-ID laws, and compensation for trans people forced to undergo sterilization in order to legally change their gender identity. Sven Lehmann, a Green MdB, has also been appointed as a government commissioner on gender and sexual diversity, working on LGBTQ+ issues across government departments.

The Government has also committed to introducing a comprehensive strategy (and additional funding) to combat violence against women, and to reforming the asylum process to be more simple, fair, and protective of vulnerable populations.

However, though coalition ministers are supportive, there may still be some limits to the extent to which legislators are able to amend legislation, and actively represent minority groups.

For one thing, although the diversity of the Bundestag increased in 2021, the bar was relatively low to begin with. The share of female legislators is up by just three percent from 2017, and the number of representatives who are female, LGBTQ+, or belong to migrant communities is still low in comparison to the wider population.

For example, only 11.3% of legislators hail from migrant communities, with the largest – Germany’s Turkish community – still vastly underrepresented.

Second, wider societal attitudes are not necessarily conducive to change. As in many other European countries, whilst German attitudes towards LGBTQ+ communities and gender equality are relatively liberal, debate around issues such as gender identity, race, multiculturalism and discrimination is increasingly polarised.

This had led to an increasingly hostile political environment for minority candidates, which is unlikely to encourage political engagement.

Tareq Alaows, a Syrian refugee, campaigned for the Greens in September’s elections on a platform of immigration reform in the hope of becoming the first Syrian immigrant in the Bundestag. However, he was forced to step down after facing a torrent of racial abuse.

A recent study has also found that the 2021 German election campaign was rife with disinformation and conspiracy campaigns which specifically targeted female candidates. Nine in ten female MPs have received correspondence containing misogynistic hate speech and threats.

Third is the question of party politics. Not only are the public increasingly at odds on social issues, but parties are too.

Germany’s three coalition parties may be in step on social issues, but polling ahead of the 2021 election showed a large partisan divide between CDU/CSU candidates and their colleagues from other parties on issues such as migration, or the need to take explicit action to tackle racism and discrimination.

Consequently, although the CDU’s dominance may have faltered in this election, there will still be a substantial bloc of legislators ready to block substantive action on diversity from Government or fellow legislators. In the absence of support from conservatives, parliamentarians’ ability to bring about real legislative change, or shift the attitudes of the wider electorate, may be constrained.

The 2021 session of the Bundestag will be one of its most inclusive. A change in the makeup of parliament, and a more diverse, supportive governing coalition, could mean substantive action on issues such as immigration, self-ID, and misogyny. Such action, however, may be limited.

Illiberal public attitudes, inter-party disputes, and the continued relative lack of lawmakers from minority backgrounds pose formidable hurdles to establishing a distinctive legislative agenda.

There’s a real danger, therefore, that the impact of the Bundestag’s increased diversity may end up being largely symbolic, rather than inspiring tangible change.

Source: Diversity in the Bundestag

Germany’s new leader has a plan for the migrant crisis

Of note:

When Olaf Scholz made his first major speech as German chancellor in mid-December, it was closely watched for signs of how he would continue Angela Merkel’s successes – and how he would fix her mistakes.

Scholz focused mainly on his priorities for the pandemic and climate change, as might be expected given the continued discovery of new Covid-19 variants and his center-left coalition.

But almost unremarked was a small but far-reaching change, designed to solve one of the most taxing of German problems – what to do about the large number of refugees inside the country. The issue is still a source of controversy among Germans over whether it counts as a success or a failure of the Merkel years. In outlining his new approach, Scholz said Germany would for the first time allow dual citizenship.

Source: Germany’s new leader has a plan for the migrant crisis

Germany to open up more to migrants under new coalition

Significant changes:

Germany’s incoming government plansto 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.

Source: Germany to open up more to migrants under new coalition

German election: Are immigrant voters ignored?

Of interest. Sharp contrast with Canada:

Over 60 million people are eligible to vote in Germany’s general election on September 26. But one group is often overlooked by politicians and parties: voters with an immigrant background, many of whom have roots in Turkey, Syria, or the former Soviet Union. That group comprises some 7.4 million voters, a full 12% of the electorate.

Although that number is considerable, this group of voters is rarely addressed directly, says social scientist Sabrina Mayer.She is currently working on a study on people with a migration background in Duisburg, a multicultural city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. She drives around the city a lot, she says, and is a little surprised “that in such a city, people with a migration background are so rarely addressed directly with topics on campaign posters.”

This could be one reason for the low turnout among people with a migrant background. In the last federal election in 2017, this was around 20% below the average. This  phenomenon can become a vicious cycle, says Mayer: “If a group does not feel addressed, then they vote less often, and so the incentive for the parties to take up the issues is reduced, which is why the turnout continues to fall.”

Getting people to the polls is a problem that social activist Ali Can knows very well. The initiator of the Twitter hashtag #MeTwo, which is supposed to draw attention to discrimination, was born in Turkey, is of Kurdish origin, and fled to Germany with his family in 1995. Can is also fighting for a higher electoral turnout among people with immigrant roots.

One project he launched for the parliamentary elections is a multilingual electoral assistance app. “In the 21st century, getting help to vote should not have any barriers,” he told DW. But alongside providing information about the voting procedure and the candidates, getting people to the polls calls for a multifaceted approach that appeals to people’s emotions. “We have failed to give people with a migration background the feeling that they also belong in Germany,” he said.

Little scientific data

Little is known about which migrant groups vote which party and why. Targeted studies would be necessary to gather a clearer picture, but they cost money and then often only include the largest migrant groups.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) is a German political foundation affiliated with Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU, which holds power with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The KAS foundation carried out two such studies, in 2015 and 2019, with a focus on the three largest migrant groups in Germany. These are people with Turkish (2.8 million), Russian (1.4 million), and Polish (2.2 million) migration backgrounds.

Few parties directly address immigrant voters with their election posters

In two groups, the result remained relatively constant for a long time, according to one of the studies: “Persons arriving more recently from Russia voted above averagely often for the CDU and CSU; people of Turkish origin for the Social Democrats (SPD).” For a few years now, however, “fixed patterns” have been weakening, and instead, there is a “high degree of mobility across political party lines.” The studies show that many of those who were of Russian origin and who were eligible to vote migrated from the center-right CDU/CSU to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD); those of Turkish origin no longer remained loyal to the center-left SPD, but instead more often voted for the CDU/CSU. When it came to Germany’s large Polish community, the Green Party benefited from the shift in voter loyalty.

A good sign for democracy

This new mobility at the ballot box should be seen as a sign of “normalization,” say the KAS foundation researchers. After all, mobility in elections has increased in general, including in the rest of the German population. Mayer also sees it this way: “Party loyalty is declining, decisions are made based on topics and what appeals to individuals is what counts, instead of people just voting as a bloc for a party that has always been associated with their own group.”

But the parties do not seem to want to take advantage of this opportunity. “People with a migration background represent a considerable electoral potential for political parties,” according to the organization “Citizens For Europe.” However, that is on the condition “that they adapt what they’re offering and their political platform to the increasingly diverse electorate.” In many cases, according to the Mediendienst Integration, a press service focusing on migration and integration issues, many of the topics that matter most to immigrants are ignored by politicians.

Infografik Ausländische Bevölkerung Deutschland EN

Even if eligible voters with non-German roots are taken into account, there are nearly as many people living in Germany who are of voting age but totally shut out of the electoral process: those with a foreign background who are not allowed to vote here because they do not have German citizenship. That’s 8.7 million people.

Having more representation of people with international backgrounds among the political class, for example, could counteract this. But for now they remain rare in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag: Only 58 of its 709 members have non-German roots.

Source: German election: Are immigrant voters ignored?

Germany passes new #citizenship law for descendants of Nazi victims

Of note:

German lawmakers have approved changes that will make it easier for descendants of those who fled Nazi persecution to obtain citizenship.

Under German law, people stripped of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds can have it restored, and so can their descendants.

But legal loopholes had prevented many people from benefiting.

Campaigners say the move allow many to reconnect with their German heritage, particularly in the Jewish community.

“We acknowledge the work that the German people have undertaken to honour the memory of those lost and those who suffered in the [Holocaust],” said Felix Couchman, chair of the Article 116 Exclusions Group, which has been lobbying on the issue for years.

“These measures have been necessary stepping stones to rebuilding trust,” he added.

While Germany’s post-war constitution allows citizenship to be restored, the lack of a legal framework meant many people had their applications rejected.

Some were denied because their ancestors had taken another nationality before their citizenship was revoked.

For others it was because they were born to a German mother, but not a German father. Until a change to the law in 1953, German citizenship could only be passed on paternally.

A legal decree was passed in 2019 to help close these loopholes. Now that it has passed the lower house of Germany’s Bundestag, with a large majority, prospective applicants will have a firmer legal footing for their appeal.

The law does also cover those who were directly deprived of their citizenship but, given the passage of time, descendants will be the main beneficiaries.

The new law also bars the naturalisation of people convicted of racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic acts.

“This is not just about putting things right, it is about apologising in profound shame,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in March, when the government passed the draft law.

“It is a huge fortune for our country if people want to become German, despite the fact that we took everything from their ancestors.”

The move comes as neighbouring Poland comes under the spotlight for a draft law which critics say would make it harder for Jews to recover property seized by Nazi occupiers during World War Two.

The bill, passed by Poland’s lower parliamentary house on Thursday, has been condemned by the US and Israel.

Source: Germany passes new citizenship law for descendants of Nazi victims