German panel lays down restrictions on EU immigrants
As German cities struggle with the effects of rising immigration, a committee appointed by the Merkel government released an interim report recommending limits to residency rights for job-seekers from EU member states. EurActiv Germany reports.
Immigration from other European states to Germany has increased in recent years, according to a report approved by the German government on Wednesday (26 March).
"That is good news for our country", explained Federal Minister of Internal Affairs Thomas de Maizière at the presentation of the interim report in Berlin.
The document was tabled by a special committee assigned by the German government to assess legal matters and challenges concerning immigrants from within the EU.
Although immigrants contribute to prosperity and development in Germany, Maizière said, "on the other hand, we should not turn a blind eye to the fact that there are also problems related to immigration."
In many municipalities, the trend has intensified social problems and placed a growing burden on community service systems. Areas like schooling, housing, sheltering the homeless and healthcare are particularly affected.
Information from the German Federal Statistical Office shows that most immigrants come from Poland. Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria follow by a significant margin in second, in third and fourth place respectively. Immigration from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal has also increased.
Nevertheless, immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania have been the subject of public debate, ever since the EU extended freedom of labour movement to these two member states.
"From a national perspective, the number of immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania is reasonable and manageable, but regionally it is alarming," the internal affairs minister said, adding: "It is right for us to confront this now, so the Federal Republic does not sustain significant damage."
The committee also proposed providing communities with €200 million in financial assistance over four years to help them deal with migration. The committee dealt primarily with the situation in municipalities hosting a disproportionately high number of immigrants from EU countries. Such municipalities lack apartments and sufficient housing facilities for the homeless.
But shortages in education for immigrants are also a significant problem. In this case, it is difficult to integrate them through training programmes and employment. Children do not attend school because they lack sufficient German language skills. Many immigrants do not have health insurance, but require urgent medical care.
The state secretarial committee proposed various measures to tackle the misuse of free movement rights. Re-entry restrictions are planned.
Further restrictions have also been proposed regarding the right of residence while searching for a job. Time limits of three and six months are being considered, the interim report said.
The committee hopes to cut-down on bogus self-employment and moonlighting through various changes to commercial law. Legal adjustments in family services and child benefits seek to impede potential abuse.
On 8 January, 2014, the German government resolved to appoint a state secretarial committee to address "Legal questions and challenges over claims to social protection systems by citizens of the EU member states".
On 26 March the committee presented an interim report to the cabinet. The report contains a comprehensive inventory of data, facts and the legal situation regarding immigration of EU citizens to Germany.
On the basis of these findings, recommendations are also made for preventing abuses of the freedom of movement. The report additionally proposes ways to support cities and communities particularly affected by immigration. A final report is expected from the committee at the end of June 2014.