Germany presents new Immigration Act draft

Disputes already started with the name: What label should the German leading parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU), Christian Socialists (CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) put on the legislative package that was debated on Thursday for the first time? [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

Germany’s interior ministry has presented its key points for the new immigration law. But the first reactions were rather mixed, although the law has long been desired for. EURACTIV Germany reports.

After the SPD put pressure on the CDU/CSU to settle their wearisome dispute in early July, things went faster than expected.

A draft for immigration regulations of the German government was made available on Friday (17 August). Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) presented in it the cornerstones of the future law, which has long been demanded, above all by the SPD, and was also previously promised in the coalition agreement.

The new law is to reform the current, unwieldy immigration law of 2004 and to finally regulate labour market integration beyond asylum policy. Refugees are mentioned in Seehofer’s draft only with one sentence. The focus is on another keyword of migration policy: skilled workers.

That Germany with its ageing population suffers a shortage of craftsmen, nurses and technicians is a well-known but urgent problem. Around 1.6 million qualified workers are missing inside Germany, according to a study by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Almost every third company cannot fill its vacant positions.

Germany's Seehofer pushes migrant take-back deal with Italy, Greece

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Sunday (5 August) said he hoped for a breakthrough this week in talks with Italy and Greece on taking back asylum-seekers already registered in those countries, as Berlin toughens its migration policies.

Economists are therefore particularly pleased with the move towards a new immigration law. The Federal Association of German small- and medium-sized businesses demands a quick implementation of Seehofer’s plans as well as a liberal design of the immigration rules.

“We are very pleased that the government parties now finally want to create a reasonable immigration law, which SMEs have long been demanding,” said Association President Hermann Sturm.

“In the competition for qualified employees or junior staff, small and medium-sized companies almost always have the disadvantage compared to large companies.”

More opportunities for professionals instead of academics

As the name suggests, the key features are still relatively open. But the plan already mentions the criteria that should play a role in granting residence permits.

The professional qualifications, age, language skills, evidence of having a concrete job offer and securing livelihood should be considered. Above all, the draft emphasises that selection should curb immigration into welfare systems.

For Wolfgang Steiger, the secretary-general of the CDU’s Economic Council, this is decisive: “Successful integration does not take place through welfare systems but only through the labour market. On the contrary, the abundant social care even promotes parallel societies and inhibits integration.”

A point system, of the sort that exists in Canada or Australia and is required by the SPD, is not provided in the draft. The immigration system is supposed to be more open to those who do not have an EU Blue Card. They receive only a few, as they require a contract of employment, a German or equivalent university degree and a high minimum income.

Germany lifts ban on reunions for refugees, rekindles integration debate

Germany on Wednesday (1 August) resumed family reunifications for some refugees, drawing ire from leftist groups who said a cap of 1,000 people a month was too little and a far-right party opposed to immigration altogether.

Instead, as Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) had demanded, vocationally qualified persons should be allowed to stay for a while, including those without a university degree. On the other hand, the priority review is now dropped, in which the German Employment Agency examines whether or not an EU citizen is eligible for a vacancy.

The Central Confederation of German Crafts welcomed both steps: “The immigration of professionally qualified foreign skilled workers is rightly meant to be facilitated. This corresponds to a requirement of the craft to expand the focus and not just keep it for the academically qualified,” it said in a statement.

For the chairman of the AfD parliamentary group, Alice Weidel, the opening, on the other hand, bears a danger: “Immigration is not controlled, but fueled. The planned abolition of the priority check is a license to pay for wage dumping by importing additional competitive potential into the labour market. ”

Refugees are not provided for in the Immigration Act

At the beginning of the month, the debate on a German immigration law was prompted by a statement by Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU), who wants a law with the possibility of “lane change”. According to his plan, migrants should be able to switch from asylum to the regular immigration system, even if their asylum status has been previously rejected.

Germany seals deal with Spain to return registered asylum seekers

Berlin and Madrid finalised an agreement on Monday (6 August) that will see asylum seekers that reach Germany via Spain returned to the Iberian nation.

The CSU defends itself against this option. The party’s Economic Council said:

“This would send the wrong signal to the world that Germany rewards irregular migrants when they take up any work, after they had previously resisted only long enough against their status rejection, departure and deportation,” said Wolfgang Steiger. The AfD seconds this, Alice Weidel speaks here of a “reward for successful illegal immigration”.

The spokeswoman for migration of the liberal opposition FDP party, Linda Teutenberg, also supported this approach. To open up this possibility is a pragmatic approach to allow well-integrated and working refugees a legal stay in Germany, instead of blindly deporting them.

“This is a consequence of the failure to have no immigration law so far.” In Seehofer’s proposal, however, this option is not present, the CSU rejects the approach. According to them, asylum and immigration law should remain separate.

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