Germany plans new path to residency for migrants

AFP , Wednesday 6 Jul 2022

The German cabinet on Wednesday signed off plans to make it easier for migrants with "tolerated" status to stay in the country permanently and integrate into the job market.

Olaf Scholz German Parliament
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) answers questions during a session at the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament, in Berlin on July 6, 2022. AFP

 

The proposals, outlined in a draft document seen by AFP, apply to migrants who have been denied asylum but cannot be deported and who have been living in Germany for at least five years.

Around 130,000 such migrants will be granted a "right of opportunity to stay" lasting for one year, according to the document.

After that, if they can prove they have a reliable source of income and a sufficient command of the German language, they will be granted official permanent residency.

"These people, who have made a life for themselves in Germany over a long period of residence, are to be offered a perspective under residence law and given a chance to obtain the necessary requirements for legal residence," according to the document.

"Criminals remain fundamentally excluded from the right of opportunity to stay."

Ulrich Schneider, an employment adviser to migrants for the Caritas NGO in the Black Forest town of Freiburg im Breisgau, welcomed the proposals.

"We have waited a long time for such a bill... in particular because it offers a perspective to people who until now lived under the threat of possible expulsion," he told AFP.

Legal limbo

"Tolerated" asylum seekers often find themselves in legal limbo because they are unable to prove their nationality, or because deportations to their country of origin have been suspended for political reasons.

Those currently living in Germany include many Afghans who arrived during the 2015-16 refugee influx.

They have been left "on a sort of waiting list" where their permission to remain in the country must be reviewed every three months, according to Schneider.

The draft bill includes plans to make it easier for migrants to be joined by family members, especially if they are skilled workers, and to improve access to vocational and language courses.

It also proposes measures to make it easier to deport asylum seekers with criminal convictions.

The changes must still be voted through in the Bundestag and Bundesrat lower and upper houses of parliament before becoming law.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck called the move "pragmatic and smart" at a time when the country was suffering from labour shortages in many sectors, including hospitality.

Failing to make use of these people's skills would be "a sin against the economic potential of our country", he said.

However, critics said the plans do not go far enough and accused Germany's coalition government of watering down a promise to completely overhaul the country's migration system.

"The aim is good and fair: to give a chance to people who so far have no secure status," said Joshua Hofert, a board member at the Terre des Hommes NGO, but "the paradigm shift announced by the coalition is not yet in sight".

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