U.S. English Foundation Research
European Union Issues - Pan-European Immigration
Even though the number of foreigners rose by 329,929 last year to almost 5.6 million, with the largest numbers coming from Romania, Morocco and Britain, latest figures show a noticeable decline in immigrants as Spain sinks into recession.
Romanians make up Spain's largest foreign community with 796,576 members, followed by Moroccans with 710,401 members and Ecuadorians with 413,715.
The British make up Spain's fourth largest foreign community with 374,600 members, most of them found on the country's sunny Mediterranean coast.
The Romanian community posted the biggest increase in total numbers last year, rising by 8.9 percent, followed closely by Moroccans with 8.8 percent, while the British community increased by 6.1 percent.
The Chinese community posted the fourth-largest increase in numbers, growing by 19,511 or 15.5 percent over the previous year.
Latin Americans accounted for 28.1 percent of all foreigners in the country while Africans accounted for 17.8 percent.
Traditionally a nation that sent workers abroad, Spain has seen the flow reversed in the past decade as its economy boomed. In 1996, it had only around half a million immigrants.
Between 600,000 and 750,000 immigrants arrived in Spain annually during the peak of the boom years.
However, the flow declined noticeably last year as the country entered into its first recession in 15 years when the global credit crunch worsened a correction that was already under way in the property sector, a key driver of growth.
The number of Bolivians living in Spain fell by 6.3 percent, Argentineans by 4.7 percent and Ecuadorians by 3.3 percent, the latest figures showed.
A large proportion of Latin American immigrants to Spain are employed in the service sector and in construction, both of which have been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn.
The Madrid government in November began offering financial compensation to legal immigrants to return home to some 19 countries from outside the European Union, with which Spain has a reciprocal social security agreement.
ARABIC LANGUAGE CLASSES TO OPEN IN COPENHAGEN
Children from immigrant families living in Copenhagen may soon be able to study Arabic as their second language at schools.
"It is very important that we give students a choice of languages that include Arabic, as there is a need to give a helping hand to young people from Arab-speaking countries to reinforce their education and integration into Danish society," Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, the city's vice-mayor in charge of youth policy, told AFP."It is very important that we give students a choice of languages that include Arabic, as there is a need to give a helping hand to young people from Arab-speaking countries to reinforce their education and integration into Danish society," Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, the city's vice-mayor in charge of youth policy, told AFP.
Arabic would be offered alongside other foreign languages already taught in Denmark such as English, French and German. They all would be offered as options for the entrance exams that pupils have to sit at the age of fifteen to get into high school.
In offering Arabic on the curriculum, the idea is to give children from immigrant families a better chance at succeeding in those tests, as about ten percent of secondary school pupils speak this language as their mother tongue. Copenhagen has asked Denmark's education ministry, which must agree to the proposals, to start teaching Arabic when students return to school in August from their summer holidays.
Despite counting just six percent non-citizens among its 5.5 million inhabitants, Denmark has long struggled to integrate its immigrant population amid widespread skepticism of foreigners, especially those who are Muslim.
LESS PEOPLE APPLYING FOR GERMAN CITIZENSHIP
Over the past ten years the number of immigrants applying for German citizenship has fallen rapidly. In 2000, 187,000 foreigners became naturalized Germans, where by 2007 the numbers have dropped to 113,000.
Official figures for 2008 have not yet been published, but unofficial research by Sevim Dagdelen, a parliamentarian from Germany's Left party, estimates the number of immigrants who chose to become German citizens fell by another 18 percent last year.
"The federal government keeps talking about Germany as a land of integration, with a welcoming culture of naturalization," Dagdelen told Deutsche Welle, adding that "it is clearly untrue. Many foreigners are not even applying for German citizenship; they are worried they will not be accepted, because the hurdles are set too high." She says that citizenship tests particularly are an obstacle to integration.
To be granted German citizenship, an immigrant must have lived in Germany legally for at least eight years. They have to prove they have an independent income, do not require social welfare or unemployment benefits, and have a good grasp of the German language. Additional rules introduced in 2007 require applicants who have not graduated from a German school to pass a citizenship test.
The examination costs 25 euros and consists of 33 multiple choice questions about German history, culture and the political system. Would-be Germans must provide at least 17 correct answers to pass the test; otherwise they can re-sit the examination at a later date.
The Federal Government says extremely low failure rates (around one percent) prove the test is a success. But critics say the authorities are wrong.
The left-wing Berlin state senate's commissioner for integration, Guenter Piening, says many immigrants from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds are so worried by the test that they would rather not apply for German citizenship. According to Piening, these are the people who need to be included into German society, because "middle-class, educated, immigrants who confidently decide they want to become German are not a problem". He also says: "The people we really want to appeal to are the immigrants who until now have been unsure about naturalization, but do want to commit to our society."
The government's new language test is particularly unpopular among immigrants, as they cannot get by on such basic phrases as where they live or whom they know. They have to be able to describe their dreams and justify their opinions.
"We should make exceptions for older, first-generation immigrants," Piening said adding that "the current testing regime is especially challenging for people who never attended a German school".
The Federal Government's commissioner for integration, Maria Boehmer, however, is opposed to lowering standards even in the face of falling naturalization numbers. "In Hamburg I took part in a podium discussion. There was an immigrant who had spent more than 30 years in Germany. He told me that without a good grasp of the German language, he would still be little more than a spectator on the edge of society," she told Deutsche Welle.
Boehmer also says the rapid fall in the number of foreigners applying for German citizenship needs to be carefully examined because a number of factors are at play. One is a rule that came into force in 2000. It states that a child born to an immigrant parent who has been living in Germany for more than eight years is automatically granted German citizenship - so there is no need for an application.
However, critics point out that such children only remain German if they choose to give up their foreign nationality when they reach 18 years of age. They say this forced decision puts the youth with immigrant background under a lot of pressure. And by now, there is not much support found among Germany's major political parties for lifting the ban on dual citizenship and there is little to suggest their position will change soon.
EUROPEANS SHOULD RESPECT TURKISH IDENTITY
Faruk Celik, Turkish Minister in charge of affairs of Turks living abroad said at an international experts' conference that European countries with ethnic Turkish residents should respect their identity and assure their rights in working life and in society. At the conference, organized by the Ankara government, participants assessed the situation of some 5 million ethnic Turks living abroad, including 4 million in European countries.
Although Mr Celik did say that the assimilation of immigrants can be denigrating for them, he did recommend that they could better integrate themselves into society, could learn to speak the local language; citing for example that they should learn to speak German as well as the Germans.
WWW.PRESSEUROP.EU - A NEW NEWS PORTAL
A new website www.presseurop.eu funded by the European Commission was launched on 26 May with the aim of creating a "European public sphere".
The portal aims to monitor around 250 titles, both within and outside Europe, including all of the big national dailies, such as France's Le Figaro, Spain's El Pais and the UK's Financial Times, and to put a selection of articles concerning Europe from these papers on the site.
The site will be available in 10 languages with all 23 of the EU's official languages expected to be onboard within five years.
EU Communications Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who promised the site would be editorially independent, said it would "broaden, enrich and expand coverage of European affairs". "It has nothing to do with whether we like what the media writes or not", she said, in response to a question concerning the motives of the Commission for the portal, but rather aims to "prolong the life" of quality articles.
The initiators of the project hope to have 1.5 million visitors a month across the ten sites by the end of 2010.
The EU set up a similar platform for radio in 2007 and will launch a TV version next year.
These moves come after the Commission has spoken for years about wanting to move political discourse away from being purely national in tone to being of a more European hue.
EU COMMISSION LAUNCHES NEW "EUROMED NEWS" CHANNEL
On 15 April, the European Commission launched a new television channel, "EuroMed News", to promote its neighborhood policy and boost the visibility of EU-funded projects in the Mediterranean region.
The Union for the Mediterranean, backed by French President Sarkozy, was launched last summer to give regional integration a new impetus by supporting a series of priority development projects.
The new channel is designed to "inform the public about the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, facilitate coverage and broadcasting, stimulate dialogue, and promote cultural diversity and gender equality".
Partially financed by the EU Commission, its joint production team of France Télévision and hundreds of local broadcasters in such countries as Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon will produce programs until February 2010.
It also seeks to provide the public with information on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and to enable coverage and broadcasting of Euro-Mediterranean news by broadcasters from across the region.
A range of programmes, including 300 news topics, 40 thirteen-minute magazines and nine 26-minute documentaries will be broadcast on public television across the North Africa and the southern Mediterranean region.
Possible issues to be covered include employment assistance schemes for young people, eliminating illiteracy among rural women, fighting marine pollution, exploring solar power and, inter alia, the EU's strategy for developing a "Euro-Mediterranean cultural heritage".
EuroMed News will be made available to the rest of the world via the Internet.
"A COMMON IMMIGRATION POLICY FOR ALL EU MEMBER STATES IS VITAL" SAY MEPs
MEPs at the European Parliament have agreed that Europe must deliver a common immigration policy. Their report recognizes the importance of legal immigration, as Europe is facing an ageing population and a declining workforce, yet above all it urges Member States jointly to tackle the problems caused by illegal immigration. MEPs also propose to reinforce migrant's rights by allowing them to vote in local elections.
MEPs describe immigration as "one of the foremost challenges that Europe is currently facing", and believe that it will remain a significant challenge for the coming decades. Furthermore, a common approach to immigration is vital: shared European borders mean that "action or inaction by one Member State has a direct impact on others and on the EU as a whole".
The European Parliament adopted an own-initiative report drafted by Simon Busuttil (EPP-ED, MT) by 485 votes in favor, 110 against and 19 abstentions.
Migrants – a vital part of development in Europe
All the MEPs agree that migrants have always played "a vital role in the development of the EU". Europe should continue to be a welcoming environment for migrants, therefore, especially as the European working-age population is expected to fall by 50 million by 2060 (according to Eurostat statistics). They think that well-managed immigration could help to provide crucial economic stimulus to the EU in the coming years.
On the other hand, MEPs are concerned about the effect of the "brain drain" on third countries, and are therefore recommending that a "cycle of exchange of knowledge" should be encouraged through programs of temporary migration. They are also proposing a scheme to facilitate training in countries of origin "in order to preserve occupations in key sectors", which might help especially in countries suffering from a lack of workers.
Statistics presented by the Commission suggest that, by 2050, the EU will need 60 million migrant workers, which clearly shows that channels for legal migration need to be improved. MEPs regret that so far little has been done to encourage this, and calls on Member States to establish a coordinated approach, "taking into account the demographic and economic situation of the EU".
Integration of Migrants
The report supports integration efforts by Member States to help immigrants to learn the language of their host country and to develop an understanding of the values of the EU and its Member States. However, MEPs do recognise that integration is very much a two-way process, which also demands adjustments by the population of the host state. They support the view that immigrants from third countries should be granted the right to full mobility in the EU, after a period of five years' legal residence in a Member State. A further recommendation from MEPs suggests that democratic participation is crucial to integration; they are therefore calling for migrants to be allowed to vote in local elections.
Successful integration also requires cooperation with third-party countries, which regrettably has not yet achieved sufficient results. The one exception to this is Spain's successful cooperation with third countries, such as Senegal and Mauritania, which helped to reduce arrivals in the Canary Islands in 2008 by 70 percent.
Common European Border Strategy
In the report, MEPs are calling for the replacement of National Schengen visas by universal European Schengen visas and for a joint consular service for visas to be set up on a gradual and voluntary basis. The report also calls on the Council and Member States to agree and adopt cooperative arrangements to share the burden of border policing amongst Member States.
The European Parliament is particularly shocked by the "human tragedy caused by illegal migratory sea routes". The rapporteur states that in 2008, more migrants lost their lives at sea that in the war in Gaza. Therefore, the report is calling for urgent action to stop this tragedy, and to reinforce cooperation with countries of origin. MEPs are concerned that illegal immigration organised by criminal networks has so far proved to be more effective than common European actions, and urges Member States to take action in "the fight against organised crime, human trafficking and smuggling".
FRONTEX, the Warsaw-based EU agency designed to coordinate border security cooperation between Member States, should be reinforced and have its powers extended. The report suggests that FRONTEX should be provided with adequate funding and resources so that it has the potential to acquire its own equipment. MEPs are calling on the Commission to investigate the possibility of "upgrading FRONTEX operations at sea into an EU coast guard, without undermining Member States control of their borders".
TABOO ON ETHNIC DATA MAY BE BROKEN
France is about to break a taboo and legalize the counting of minorities. It is still illegal to classify people by ethnicity or to ask census questions on race or origins. The foundation stone of the secular French Republic is that all citizens should be equal and free from distinctions of class, race or religion.
Sarkozy recently went further than any other French president to denounce the hypocrisy of everyday racism and discrimination, which has poisoned that republican ideal. He said the lack of data on ethnic minorities was hampering the ability to measure inequality and deal with it.
Meanwhile, race campaigners describe a society plagued by discrimination, where non-white French citizens with "foreign-sounding" names are routinely discriminated against in education and employment, or targeted by police "stop and search" actions. Even state housing authorities have been found guilty of denying flats on the grounds of race.
Yazid Sabeg, a businessman of Algerian-Berber origin, appointed by Sarkozy to advise on how to tackle discrimination, has launched a commission to examine ways of officially collecting statistics on France's ethnic make-up for the first time. The proposal has, however, created such a political row that it seems possible Sarkozy must shelve any further plans.
Sabeg has warned that discrimination in France is so acute that the nation was becoming "an apartheid state".
He said data collected on minorities would be voluntary and anonymous. People would not be made to tick a box by human resources departments, but instead would be asked in surveys to define what "community" they felt they belonged to, such as black, white, North African or Asian.
This has outraged both left and right-wing politicians and intellectuals in France, where the word "community" is seen as an affront to the republican ideal. The British approach of multiculturalism is seen as dangerously divisive.
"Our country must not become a mosaic of communities," said Fadela Amara, the left-wing junior minister for urban affairs.
French history bears heavily on the debate. The 1978 law that bans collecting ethnic data has roots in France's shame over collaboration with the Nazis during World War II, when Jews were marked with yellow stars and sent to death camps.
GERMANY IS HOME TO ABOUT 6.7 MILLION FOREIGNERS
According to figures released by the Federal Statistics Office on 23 March 2009, Germany is home to 6.7 million foreigners (eight percent of the population), of which a quarter are Turkish nationals. That the number of Turkish citizens living in Germany declined by 25,200 to 1.7 million by year-end 2008 was due mainly to the number of Turks who were granted German citizenship during its course.
In the same 12-month period and in contrast to the decline in the number of Turkish nationals, the number of foreigners from EU member states has risen. The largest numbers come from those countries that have joined the European Union since 2004. For instance, the number of Poles residing in Germany increased against the previous year by some 9,000 in 2008. However, the greatest rise was noted among citizens from Bulgaria and Romania, which countries entered the 27-bloc in 2007. The number of Romanian nationals increased by 9,700 in 2008, up 12 percent from the previous year, while the number of Bulgarian citizens rose to 7,200, up 15 percent from 2007.
About 80 percent of all foreigners living in Germany are Turkish or European nationals, of whom only one third have EU passports. The rest come from countries that hope to join the EU, such as Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia, or from Russia and other countries.
Decades after the first "guest workers" arrived from Turkey in the 1960s, the Turks are still Germany's largest foreign minority, followed by the Italians, Poles, Serbs, Greeks, Croatians and Russians.
Nearly all of the 192 nations that are member states of the United Nations are represented in Germany, reflecting a growing diversity in the entire resident population, which numbers 82 million.
The study shows that the majority of foreigners in Germany are long-time residents of the country. Some 72 percent, or nearly five million foreigners, have lived in Germany for the eight years required to meet the minimum residency requirements to apply for citizenship.
About half of those long-time foreign residents have been in the country for more than twenty years, while twenty percent of all foreigners were born in Germany. The average age of foreign residents is 38 years old, a slight rise from 2007, which suggests that since the 2000 nationality laws took effect, more foreigners born in Germany are becoming citizens, according to the statistics office. In 2008, only 356,400 children under the age of 10 were foreign nationals, compared to 521,300 in the same age group three years ago.
ILLITERATE MAN DENIED GERMAN CITIZENSHIP
A Turkish citizen who has lived in Germany for twenty years was denied citizenship because the German court decreed that, being illiterate, he had no right to citizenship.
Although the 39-year-old man was granted asylum by the German state in 1993 and has been granted permanent residency in the country, he turned to the higher administrative court in Baden-Wuerttemberg when his application for citizenship was denied by the city of Pforzheim on the grounds of an insufficient knowledge of German.
The court in Mannheim agreed that it was not enough to speak the language; citizenship applicants must at least be able to read German. Only then can written forms in his or her name be checked for accuracy, said the judge.
In order to integrate socially and politically, the court concluded it was necessary to be able to follow the media and to be able to communicate with Germans. Such other signs of successful integration as a secure job and well-integrated children could not compensate for illiteracy.
Even though the man has no formal education and cannot read or write, the court ruled that even illiteracy in a foreigner's own language could not justify exemption from the German citizenship stipulations. The man was also told that since he was only 19 when he first arrived in Germany, he should have taken the opportunity to enroll in literacy classes - and that it was still not too late to learn to read and write.
SCHOOLS WITH MIGRANT CHILDREN NEED MORE SUPPORT, MEPs AGREE
Culture Committee MEPs adopted two draft parliamentary resolutions concerning support for migrant children. It was stated that due to the high number of migrant children in schools, specially trained multilingual teachers and extra funding are needed for their better integration.
MEPs called for additional funding for language courses for migrant children and their parents, for teachers and staff who understand the children's mother tongue and for extra staff and facilities for schools with a high proportion of immigrant children.
Mother tongue and host-country language
The report by Hannu Takkula (ALDE, Finland) states that EU-member States should ensure the promotion of migrant children's native languages and cultures in their school education. MEPs insist this would facilitate the children's integration in their new environment.
The reference to "bilingual" teaching in Mr Takkula's report caused controversy, as some members feared it would provide for only one host-country language. Concerns were voiced for countries with several official languages, and a compromise was finally reached on the necessity for teachers to be equipped for "multilingual education approaches" and for children to learn all the languages of their country of residence, at the request of Catalan MEP Maria Badia i Cutchet (PES).
However, MEPs also agreed "the place given to teaching in the mother tongue within the curriculum (...) must specifically be left to the Member States".
Role models for all pupils
In another report by Pal Schmitt (Hungary, EPP-ED) adopted by the Culture Committee, MEPs say schools' staff "should reflect as far as possible the increasing diversity of European societies, in order to provide role models for all pupils".
The report, on "better schools: an agenda for European cooperation", states that "Member States should take steps to ensure that the children of legal migrants are taught their mother tongue". MEPs also agreed that host-language courses should be offered by schools to parents, and especially to mothers, of migrant children.
Mr Takkula's report also asks for additional financial and administrative support to be provided to schools for these courses.
Education as a key to economic recovery
Education and training have a key role to play in helping to set the conditions to overcome the current economic crisis and to develop a strong knowledge-based economy, Mr Schmitt's report states.
MEPs agreed the free movement of knowledge is "the ideal tool for economic recovery" and called on Member States to ensure that their school curricula are "closely linked to industry, business and the labor market".
Migration from outside the EU has steadily increased over the last decades and should continue to do so, leading to an ever-greater number of migrant children in schools. These children are often poorly equipped to succeed because of their precarious socio-economic backgrounds.
If more efforts are not made to help migrant children do well in school, the EU will be wasting a formidable reserve of talent for the future, argues Mr Takkula's report.
Mr Takkula's report was adopted unanimously. Mr Schmitt's report was adopted with four abstentions. Parliament will vote on both reports during its mini-plenary in Brussels on 2 April.
THE NATIONAL MINORITY DEBATE
Mr. Tabajdi led a debate by MEPs on the status of national minorities at the European Parliament's plenary session with Commissioner Jacques Barrot on 3 February 2009. It highlighted the need for distinction between migrant minorities and traditional national minorities and how political autonomy is widely seen as European best practice for the protection of national minority languages and cultures.
Tabajdi pointed out that some national minority languages are endangered, and asked "how can the EU be credible when it criticizes third countries", referring to the Balkans, "but has yet to sort out its own affairs"? "These contradictions have to be sorted out for those that have no state; the Basques, the Bretons, the Corsicans," he added.
He recommended political autonomy as the best way forward to guarantee protection and, referring to South Tyrol, pointed out that, as current practice has shown, this does not affect the territorial integrity of member states. He added, "How can we stick our head in the sand when the future of Europe is at stake?"
Commissioner Barrot responded that respecting minorities is essential and that the Copenhagen criteria required member states to take measures to protect national minorities. However, he emphasized that the responsibility of protecting national minorities lies with member states and this was not in the remit of the EU.
Many MEPs called for a new deal for national minorities. Henrik Lax (ALDE) stating that ten percent of the EU population are from a national minority and that they should take an active part in the decision-making process at the EU and state level.
Mikel Irujo (EFA) disagreed with Barrot, saying that the Commissioner used the EU's lack of competence as a "fig leaf" to hide the fact that the Copenhagen criteria were not being implemented by certain member states. Kinga Gal (EPP) emphasized that some national minorities had lived on their territories for millennia and that, "it was the States that moved, not the people". Csaba Sogor (EPP) said that, "national minorities had never been asked if they wanted to learn the state language or live in another state when the borders changed, so why is a State of several millions afraid of a national minority of a few hundred thousands?"
EU double standards
Speaking to the European Parliament's news service, Mr Tabajdi said: "There both is and is not a European system of minority protection. In 1993, the European Council in Copenhagen set minority protection as one of the selection criteria that applicants had to meet before they join the EU. In other words, the 12 new members were required to meet the minority protection criteria, but the early members have not had to apply these to themselves.
"If France or Greece sought admission to the EU today, they would not be accepted. Neither has ratified the Council of Europe's two binding documents, which had to be ratified by all 12 newer Member States: the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities."
Mr Tabajdi concluded that, "There is not a single reference to the existence of national minorities in the 80,000-page EU legislation: that is why the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty would be so important. It would, for the first time, provide a legally binding basis for the protection of minorities at EU level."
Political autonomy - European best practice
MEP conclusions from the debate were clear. Above all, there needs to be a clear distinction between provision for traditional national minorities and migrant minorities so as to serve them both best, with substantive political autonomy standing as European best practice for the protection of national minorities.
Commissioner Barrot frequently asserted that it was the competence of member states alone to protect and promote their national minority languages and cultures. But what if this did not happen? One answer that some national minorities and stateless nations increasingly refer to is independence; they look to the Baltic States, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and now Kosovo. Faced with the lack of political autonomy, national minority languages and cultures will always face the potential threat of a hostile state government. Meanwhile, the EU appears stuck on the issue of member state competences over national minorities, thus strengthening the argument that stateless nations become member states themselves.
The discussion during the two-day Presidency conference (26 – 27 February) in the Prague Congress Centre showed that most participants still consider migration and integration as key factors to Europe's development.
In addition to addressing the dysfunctional economy, the participants identified three common denominators leading to widespread and often also long-term unemployment: an over-regulated labor market; obstacles to business activities; and a demotivating social system. Migrants in particular are among the main risk groups hit by unemployment. The principal factors include a lack of education and of training for foreigners, insufficient knowledge of the host country language and narrow or nonexistent social networks. They have all agreed there is a need for well-targeted integration programs that will not only teach the language of the host country but also will provide social and cultural information.
"IMMIGRANTS POORLY INTEGRATED INTO SOCIETY"
A new study has shown that a high percentage of immigrants are poorly integrated into German society and that they live in a parallel world with limited prospects for a decent education and career advancement.
The study, presented by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, is based on annual population statistics and finds that Turks in particular, the second largest group of immigrants after ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are faring badly, even after decades of living in Germany.
It shows that foreigners who come to live in Germany tend to remain strangers, even after 50 years and three generations in some cases. There are even problems among those who hold German passports.
It is a disturbing trend for Germany. The country needs immigrants because the German population is shrinking and aging and its productivity is in danger. If the immigrants, who tend to have more children, are poorly educated and cannot find jobs, they will end up costing the state money rather than supporting it. A separate study by the Bertelsmann Foundation estimates that failed immigration is already costing the country up to €16 billion ($20 billion) per year.
Fresh Insight into Immigration Trends
The Berlin Institute based its study on the annual official micro-census of 800,000 citizens in Germany - one percent of the population - in which people are asked about what kind of accommodation they have, about their jobs, education, income and nationality.
Since 2005 people have also been asked to state what country their parents came from. That means that for the first time it has been possible to identify trends for people who have obtained German citizenship but also have an immigrant background. Previously, there was no way to separate out naturalized Germans.
Immigrants from Turkey can be now compared with those from Italy and Africa and with ethnic German immigrants from Eastern Europe. The researchers at the Berlin Institute also developed an "Index for the Measurement of Immigration" which shows how well or badly an immigrant group is anchored in German society. Various criteria flow into the index, such as education levels, job prospects and the extent to which immigrants and Germans are getting closer, for example through marriage.
The study has also examined whether the children of immigrants behave differently from their parents. For the first time, there are figures to assess whether integration is taking place.
Of all the immigrant groups in Germany, the southern Europeans from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, who made up the first wave of so-called "guest workers" and who came to Germany after World War II, have done best in terms of integrating themselves.
The so-called Aussiedler, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, most of whom who came to Germany in the 1990s, are the biggest single group of immigrants, and they have done relatively well. Their sons and daughters are making good use of the education system and the proportion of them with higher education degrees is greater than that of the general German population.
However, immigrants from Turkey, the second biggest immigrant group in Germany, making up almost 3 million people, are very poorly integrated. They come last in the Berlin Institute's integration ranking and the difference between them and the Germans is greatest. Turks are worse educated, worse paid and have a higher rate of unemployment, with no dependence on how long they have been living in the country.
Approximately 30 percent of Turkish immigrants and their children do not have a school-leaving certificate, and only 14 percent do their Abitur (the degree from Germany's top-level high schools).
Why do foreigners remain foreign in so many cases, and why are Turks finding it so hard to integrate, even the ones born in Germany?
There are two sides to integration. In the ideal case, there is a majority that welcomes the immigrants and the minorities that seek to become part of their new homeland.
In the case of Turks, many of those who came to Germany as guest workers decades ago did not want to become part of German society, they wanted to earn money there and return home after a few years. That did not happen, though. The Turks stayed on, but it seems that their original attitude has not changed. They formed ghettos and did not establish much contact with Germans, all of which made it harder for their children to find a place in German society.
According to one recent survey, two-thirds of immigrant children still cannot read adequately at the end of their fourth year in school. The situation is especially bad in big cities with high proportions of immigrants such as Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen.
According to Yasemin Karakasoglu, who researches immigration trends at Bremen University, Turks have not been given enough in terms of education for the last 30 or 40 years. Only from the beginning of the millennium has the Government started taking action - changing immigration law and conducting regular meetings with immigrant groups.
There is even some movement on a key demand by immigrants from outside the European Union - dual citizenship. While EU citizens and Swiss people living in Germany have no trouble obtaining two passports, it is far harder for the children of immigrants from outside the EU. They have to decide between the ages of 18 and 23 which nationality they want to keep. The chair of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, says that Turkish immigrants should have the option of permanent dual citizenship. "If second generation Turks had the right to have dual citizenship, that would definitely promote their integration," says Kolat. "They would not be forced to decide for or against Germany."
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble responds by saying: "Integration also requires people to take a decision. They have to want to integrate themselves." Turks born in Germany could become German if they so desire, continues Schäuble. However, there are many factors affecting such a desire. One of them is xenophobia. A survey by the Allensbach polling institute found that more than 50 percent of Germans still think the country has too many immigrants. On the other hand, though, it is tempting to wonder how much of such an attitude results from the Turkish tendency to congregate in insular neighborhoods in Germany's big cities.
Reiner Klingholz says immigrants and their children should be expected to make more effort to get an education and to speak German as well as to accept Germany's legal order and cultural norms.
In fact, Germany's Turkish community is quite pluralistic. Some are in favor of women wearing headscarves and some are against it; some would not contemplate marrying a German, and others do not have a problem with bi-cultural relationships. Reiner Klingholz says it is impossible to measure the impact of Islam on integration, but he does not think it is a lasting hindrance.
Slowly, very slowly, things are changing. The percentage of Turkish girls in Gymnasium, the highest form of secondary school in Germany's three-tier high-school system, is increasing and now exceeds the percentage of Turkish boys. The education standards of second-generation Turkish immigrants are also increasing, at least compared with that of their parents. Moreover, Turkish immigrants increasingly regard Germany as their country. "As recently as the 1990s, two-thirds of Turks wanted to return at some point," says immigrant researcher Yasemin Karakasoglu. "But this attitude has changed: more and more Turks really want to stay here forever."
MEPs VOTE IN FAVOR OF A RESOLUTION ON FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
MEPs voted in favor of a resolution on fundamental rights on 14 January. Drafted by Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL), the resolution report sets new standards on a broad range of fundamental rights. Key clauses, campaigned for by EBLUL last year, are for a common definition for standards of national minority protection, a call for all member states to ratify the Framework Convention for National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, a right to education in one's mother tongue, and targeted EU funding for European lesser-used languages.
The Report "underlines the importance of protecting and promoting regional or minority languages, noting that the right to speak and to be educated in one's mother tongue is one of the most basic fundamental rights." It continues, "The EU's multilingualism policy should protect and promote regional and minority languages through targeted funding and specific programmes alongside the Lifelong Learning Programme".
Furthermore, it stresses the importance of political autonomy in helping to nurture stateless languages and cultures.
While the resolution has no immediate legislative force, it does become the formal position of the European Parliament and will be instrumental in future legislation should any be brought forward. The Report will also become a useful tool for language campaigners from across Europe.
Speaking to Eurolang, Hungarian MEP Kinga Gal, the hard-working shadow author of the Report, said that she considered that it was especially important that "[there is] adequate reference to the situation of minorities in Europe – making a clear distinction between the traditional national minorities and new minorities, especially in Central and Eastern Europe". The report underlines that, whilst the Copenhagen criteria made clear reference to the protection of minorities, yet in Community law both criteria and norms are missing in the field of protection of traditional national minorities.
Ms Gal continued: "It is a new and very important paragraph that says that the principles of support and self-governance are the most effective ways of handling the rights of people belonging to national minorities, following the best practices existing within the Union. The text encourages the use of appropriate types of self-governance solutions, which is again one of the basic claims of the big traditional minority communities, such as the Hungarians".
MEPs voted on the report by 401 votes in favor, 220 against and 67 abstaining. The language and national minority clauses passed unamended, suggesting an increasing acceptance of lesser-used language and national minority rights by MEPs.
GOVERNMENT PROPOSE A TOUGHER NEW LAW FOR IMMIGRANTS
Due to high unemployment and a moribund economy, the Spanish Government has proposed new immigration rules to limit the influx of immigrants.
The measures, which need Parliamentary approval, would let police hold undocumented aliens longer, pending expulsion, and make it harder for foreign-born residents to bring relatives over. They are yet another reflection of the dramatic turnabout in Spain's economy.
Just a few years ago, Spain was Europe's top job-creator. In 2005, it even granted amnesty to 600,000 illegal aliens, many of whom worked under-the-table as laborers in a booming real-estate sector.
Nevertheless, with the property bubble collapse over the last year, the Spanish economy is now on the verge of recession and unemployment has soared to an EU-high of 11.3 percent. Among immigrants, the jobless rate exceeds 17 percent.
Celestino Corbacho, Minister of Labor, said that the Government must limit immigrants so as not to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
The proposed reforms will now go before several government advisory bodies, then eventually to Parliament for debate and a vote next year.
About 4.3 million foreigners live in Spain legally, about 10 percent of its population. The government has no figure for how many others live in the country without residency papers.
One of the new measures would raise from 40 to 60 the number of days that police can hold people caught entering Spain illegally, so officials have more time to identify and expel them.
Many destitute Africans who arrive on small crowded boats come without passports so they cannot be identified. That way, Spain does not know where to send them back. After 40 days, the government is forced to release them.
The proposed law would also limit the common practice of bringing relatives to live in Spain. Currently, an immigrant who has been there at least a year can bring their spouse, parents and children under the age of 18. But under the proposed reform, immigrants will have to live in Spain for at least five years and obtain permanent residency before they can bring parents over, and the parents must be over 64.
The idea is to avoid attracting more working-age people who might end up on unemployment benefit.
In November, Spain began paying unemployed immigrants their benefits in a lump sum if they went home for three years. But so far the program has been a dud, attracting fewer than 800 people instead of the Labor Ministry's expectation of tens of thousands of applicants.
ANOTHER PROPOSAL ON IMMIGRATION FROM THE MODERATE PARTY
The Moderate Party has proposed that immigrants to Sweden should sign a contract to testify that they are familiar with Swedish laws, rules and values. If the contract is not met then their benefits should be reviewed.
Per Schlingmann, Secretary of the Moderates, says that they want to ensure that Swedish core values are passed on to immigrants. However, the exact form of the contract is not yet known; nor who should be obliged to sign it. Perhaps it should not be a requirement for those who come from other EU Member States, or for those who claim asylum.
The party's working committee has also presented proposals to address the problem of districts with an excessively large immigrant population. New arrivals would have their benefits withheld in order to get people to move to places where work is available.
WEB TEST TO HELP IMMIGRANTS IDENTIFY WHETHER THEY MEET CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS OR NOT
The Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has added a new feature to its website that allows people to determine whether they qualify for Swedish citizenship.
By answering a handful of simple questions, people who are thinking about becoming Swedish citizens can learn whether they fulfill the requirements before filling out the paperwork and paying the 1500 kronor ($ 183) application fee. The test, called The Citizenship Guide (Medborgarskapsguiden), consists of a series of questions about a person's age, current citizenship and residency in Sweden. After answering the questions, which are in Swedish, people are given an indication as to whether or not they qualify to apply for becoming Swedish citizens.
The Migration Board stresses that those who pass the online test should not assume they will automatically be awarded citizenship. The test is meant rather to provide "an indication, which can help those who are interested, to decide whether it is worth submitting in an application or not."
Not only does the test have the potential to save people who do not meet the basic requirements for citizenship the time and expense of filling in an application; it also helps reduce the overall time it takes for applications to be processed.
THE MAYOR OF LONDON CALLS FOR MIGRANT AMNESTY
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has announced plans to study the potential benefits of an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Johnson said this could lead to increased tax revenues and added that mass deportation was impractical as well as too expensive.
Johnson first raised the idea of an amnesty during his mayoral campaign in April 2008.
This month, however, he reopened the debate by announcing the study, which will be conducted by his economics team.
His idea is that immigrants would be allowed to stay only if they had been resident in Britain for five years, did not have a criminal record and had passed a citizenship test.
EU BLUE CARD SCHEME BACKED BY MEPs AND PARLIAMENT
Inspired by the United States' Green Card and conceived in response to the EU's lack of skilled workers in certain sectors, the proposed EU Blue Card would allow skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to live and work in any EU member state that adopts the relevant legislation.
Under the Blue Card Skilled Immigration Scheme, third-country nationals with an offer of employment would be given a renewable two- or three-year work and residence permit for the particular member country. On expiry of this initial term, the applicant would be able to apply for an extension in the same country, or for residency in another EU member state, where a new job offer had been made.
Blue Card holders would be entitled to bring their immediate family members with them and, after a combined total of five resident years in the EU, a Blue Card holder and his family could apply for permanent residence.
The proposed Blue Card scheme has, however, faced opposition from some EU countries. For example, Germany and Austria have expressed their desire to retain complete control over their labor markets, whilst new member states in Eastern Europe first want to see an end to work restrictions placed on their own citizens by some older member states.
Three members of the EU, namely Denmark, Ireland and the UK, have provisions in their EU treaties that allow them to opt out of the Blue Card program altogether. All three have robust and transparent Skilled Immigration programs of their own, with Denmark and Ireland having their own versions of the 'Green Card' and the UK offering entry through Tier 1 of its new 5-tier immigration system.
A report presented to the EU Parliament on 04 November 2008 set out to clarify some of the details of the proposed Blue Card scheme and gained the crucial support of the Employment Committee. However, according to some critics, the report suggested that certain concessions be made that would result in any Blue Card scheme now adopted being a 'watered down' version of its US counterpart.
On 20 November, the report was the subject of a consultative vote by the EU Parliament and was approved by a clear majority of 388 to 56, thanks to a pact between the Parliament's dominant parties, the Socialist PES and centre-right EPP parties. However, the large number of abstentions (124), led by the European Liberals and Greens, indicate that significant divisions persist.
Liberal spokesperson, Dutch MEP Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert, said the report lacked focus and would lead to "all kinds of restrictions and bureaucracy, rather than opening the doors to highly-skilled workers". The European Commission proposal was already very modest, she argued, and was watered down further by the EPP-PES pact, which she claimed was overly influenced by the "very muddled and emotional immigration debate going on in Europe today".
Indeed, the Parliament's report modified the original Commission proposal in a number of ways, notably in blue card eligibility requirements. For example, the Parliament stipulated that, to be eligible, an applicant must have found a job in the EU and have had at least five years' experience in the sector concerned, whereas the Commission recommended three years. Also, MEPs called for the salary threshold for candidates to be considerably higher than originally foreseen at 1.7 times the national average wage in the applicant's country, as opposed to the original 1.5.
The Greens, like the Liberals, described the proposal as "half-hearted", lamenting the "lukewarm welcome" the report offered highly skilled workers. They felt the text added a "host of restrictions on an already limited scheme".
However, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso remains upbeat about the chances of a Blue Card scheme being accepted across the EU. During a recent India-EU summit, he told journalists that the bloc was likely to implement the Blue Card in the near future.
In any case, with an ageing population, the European Union has a major demographic problem looming and will need skilled labor from around the world in the years ahead if it wishes to remain competitive with other major global economies.
It is expected that the Blue Card system will be voted upon in the European Council in 2009.
THE EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION PACT
EU leaders gathering for the EU Summit have adopted the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum proposed by the French EU Presidency.
While the French Government's original plans, involving the introduction of compulsory "integration contracts" for immigrants and putting an end to mass legalization, had to be watered down following resistance from Spain, they nevertheless confirm the concept of "selected migration" that had been pushed by French President Sarkozy.
At the heart of the Pact, which takes the form of a political declaration, is the idea, defended by Paris, that European governments should be able to "choose" immigration volumes according to labor needs, based on the assumption that "the European Union [...] does not have the resources decently to receive all the migrants who hope to find a better life here".
The Pact therefore sets out a number of basic principles for managing migration and calls on the European Commission to come forward with new proposals in five policy areas: legal and illegal migration, border controls, asylum and cooperation with third countries.
Legal migration: The Pact on Migration builds upon on the work done so far by the Commission in the context of the Policy Plan on Legal Migration, including the so-called Blue Card initiative that aims to facilitate the entry and residence of highly skilled workers to the EU in a bid to compete with the US in the race for highly qualified foreign labor.
Three further proposals will be presented in the coming months: one for seasonal workers, one for remunerated trainees and one for intra-corporate transferees. The stalemate of the Lisbon Treaty, however, will probably slow down the legislative process in the field of legal migration, as the introduction of the co-decision procedure will have to wait upon its modification.
Illegal immigration: The "selective repatriation of illegal immigrants" will be regulated by the recently adopted Return Directive, which triggered large protests in Latin America due to tough provisions that would allow member states to jail illegal immigrants for up to 18 months. The Pact also calls on member states to enhance co-operation even further by organizing joint flights for repatriation, improving readmission agreements and increasing the fight against human trafficking.
Border controls: The Pact seeks to make border controls more effective by beefing up security procedures, making use of new technologies and granting greater powers to border authorities, with a key focus on the role of Frontex, the Warsaw-based agency charged with monitoring and enhancing external border security. The document envisages the establishment of two separate permanent bodies of command, one for southern and one for eastern member states. This is meant to address the concerns of Mediterranean countries, for which migration poses qualitatively and quantitatively different challenges than in Central and Eastern Europe.
Asylum policies: The Pact calls on member states to develop common guarantees on asylum, as well as asylum support offices, through 2009. A single asylum procedure is expected by 2010.
Third countries: The Pact views cooperation with countries of origin as central to the resolution of the migration conundrum and essential for policies tackling legal and illegal migration alike. The document stresses the importance of circular migration to offset the negative consequences of "brain-drain". Pointing out that international migration is "a reality that will persist", the Pact considers the "close partnership between the countries of origin, transit and destination" as the most appropriate response to the challenges it poses.
JOB CENTER IN MALI SUPPORTED BY THE EU
The European Union has opened its first immigration center outside Europe, in Mali's capital, Bamako.
Thousands of young West Africans try to travel to Europe illegally each year and many die on the way. Thus the EU decision to open the center in Mali will help people in Mali and elsewhere in Africa find work legally and will inform them of the dangers of illegal migration.
It is also expected to encourage development within Mali, which lies at the center of key migration routes.
John Clancy, EU Spokesman for Humanitarian Aid and Development and Relations with Africa, Caribbean and Pacific states, says it is a pilot center and that, in the future, other EU member states will create bilateral arrangements with the Malian authorities to open opportunities for migrants.
"We hope to create through this center a structure for legal migration; not only for people from Mali but also for those from other nations who will be passing through Mali; a structure with better information on the legal means of finding work in Europe," he told RNW's Newsline. Mr Clancy says the center is to provide information to deter illegal migration and to provide help for potential migrants who want to leave the country, and for those who come back, having been repatriated after unsuccessful attempts to start a new life elsewhere.
However, despite this new effort on the part of the EU, economic instability and the lack of basic services look likely to go on forcing many Africans into wanting to opt for the often lethal path of illegal migration.
"BRIDGE CLASSES" FOR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN
The lower house of the Italian Parliament has recently approved a controversial scheme for immigrant children to pass a special test before being admitted into schools.
The measure proposed by the Northern League Party, still has to be approved by the Senate to become a law.
Under the proposal, the children of immigrants would have to sit tests on citizenship and would be placed in so-called bridge classes if they failed. There they would study the Italian language, law and culture until they could pass the test.
A spokesperson for the Northern League said their aim was to guarantee equal opportunities for foreign students and facilitate integration. However, opposition politicians have described it as "an act of the worst sort of xenophobia", adding that "today they create special classes for foreign pupils, so tomorrow for the disabled and the day after for any other minority group".
The Chamber of Deputies passed the measure on 14 October in a vote of 265 to 246.
Source: BBC News, October 15, 2008
BERLIN ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF THE "MULTIKULTI" RADIO STATION
Following the announcement by the owners of the pioneering Multicultural Radio Station in Berlin of its closure by the end of the year, protests and petitions have started.
Radio Multikulti was the first multicultural radio station in Europe. It started operating in 1994. Today the owners cite a budget shortfall as the reason for its closure.
Transmitting in 21 languages, Radio Multikulti was aimed primarily at the capital's 430,000-strong foreign community. Its program planners hoped it would help bring about better integration of foreigners in the city and create more respect for immigrant cultures.
"Music from many countries will play an important role. There might be West African followed by Russian, Brazilian and Australian numbers, so in one hour we will be moving right around the world," said radio's music director Johannes Theurer when it was launched.
Over the years, however, Radio Multikulti has never achieved the big audience it dreamed of. Less than 30,000 people tune in to its programs on a daily basis.
Still, it was unexpected when Radio Multikulti's parent broadcaster, Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), abruptly announced it was closing the station at the end of this year.
Listeners petition against closure
Maria Boehmer, Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration said shutting down the station meant the public broadcaster could no longer justify its claim to reflect integration and cultural diversity.
Turkish and Jewish community leaders also criticized the decision, as did trade unionists, the president of the city's Academy of Arts and a host of other organizations.
The news of the station's closure caused a commotion among loyal listeners. A "Friends of Radio Multikulti" organization was set up campaigning for the station to be kept on air.
Schubert claimed that by transmitting in different languages, the station was helping to build vital bridges between German culture and the minority immigrant cultures in Berlin.
In the months following its launch, it served 18 minorities in Berlin in their mother tongues while broadcasting also in German.
In a curious twist, Funkhaus Europa, a Cologne-based world music radio station created in 1998 on the model of Radio Multikulti, is to be transmitted in Berlin from January 1 next year on the frequency currently used by the station that inspired it.
NEW COURSE FOR IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION UNVEILED
The Flemish Integration Minister, Marino Keulen has unveiled a new course designed to allow immigrants coming to live in Flanders to integrate and contribute to the community.
The course, "Social Orientation", provides newcomers with a wealth of information about life in Flanders and suggests ways to facilitate integration.
Newcomers from outside the EU will be obliged to make an effort to integrate and to follow a path to integration. The course includes Dutch language lessons and such practical information as, for instance, about finding a job and about life in Flanders. Those who do not register for the course risk a fine.
The lessons do not dwell only on traffic regulations and environmental legislation, but also highlight three basic principles of life in Flanders: equality between the sexes; the separation of Church and State; and freedom of speech. The participants will also receive the new 'Integration Handbook', unveiled by Keulen at a news conference in Brussels.
NEW CERTIFICATE FOR IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION TO WORKING LIFE UNVEILED
A new kind of voluntary test for immigrants, by which they can show that they can fit into Finnish working life, is being planned in the country.
By passing this test, the immigrant receives a 'Skills for Working Life' Certificate to show their employer that they are familiar with Finnish work legislation and work culture.
The certificate is being prepared at the Amiedu vocational adult education centre with project funding from the Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE).
The project manager, Marja Kaikkonen, denies that it will become a prerequisite for employment. On the other hand, participants will benefit from a lot of information not generally talked about in the workplace and many things included in the certificate will be important for the employee to show they know.
The test, which can be taken on the Internet in many language versions, consists of multiple-choice questions that deal with the labor market system, the rights of the parties in employment and their responsibilities as regards taxation as well as for occupational safety and health.
FRANCE FORCED TO WITHDRAW A COMPULSORY INTEGRATION CONTRACT FROM THE PROPOSED EU IMMIGRATION PACT
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been calling for a European "immigration pact" ever since his election campaign; logically migration has thus become one of his top priorities as France has taken up the EU presidency.
The foundations of a European immigration pact are already starting to see the light of day, with the recent adoption of a European "Returns Directive" setting EU-wide standards for sending illegal immigrants back home – a move which has angered human rights groups as well as countries in Latin America. The adoption of this law, considered the backbone of the pact on immigration, highlighted a more favorable attitude to immigration control than ever before in the European Parliament.
The idea for a European 'Blue Card' for skilled immigrants is making headway alongside efforts to establish a European asylum policy.
Before the "European Pact on immigration and asylum" is signed at the next EU summit in October, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has had to succumb to pressure from Spain to drop the integration contract obligation from the text, which French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux had presented in all European capitals in an unprecedented effort to win support for the legislation. Had the "integration contract" been made compulsory it would have required third country nationals to conform to their host country's "national identity" in order to settle in the EU.
The paragraph on the "integration contract" in the document initially presented to EU capitals by Hortefeux read:
"The European Council recognizes the interest of the integration contract for third-country nationals admitted for long-term stays and encourages the member states to propose such plans in a national context. This integration contract should be obligatory. It will include the obligation to learn the national language, national identity and such European values as respect for the physical integrity of others, equality of men and women, tolerance and the obligation to educate children."
But the text got a negative response from several countries, which saw in it a greater potential for controversy and discrimination than a means for actually contributing to the better integration of immigrants. Spain led the fight against the clause becoming European policy. A new, significantly watered down text is now expected.
But in most other aspects, French ambitions for a pact on immigration seem likely to succeed. Nevertheless, Spain, whose economy relies heavily on foreign workers, also dislikes the French proposals on abandoning mass regularisation of immigrants.
UN COMMITTEE CRITICIZES INTEGRATION OF FOREIGNERS
The UN Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination has criticized German integration practices and called on Germany to avoid discrimination in its integration of foreigners.
The Committee has singled out a controversial citizenship test in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which apparently requires citizens of the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to answer specific questions when they apply for German citizenship.
The UN committee also described as "regrettable" that many migrants who have lived in Germany for many years still fail to get citizenship. "Germany should facilitate the acquisition of German citizenship by such long-term residents and by persons born in Germany in order to promote their integration," the committee said.
They have also criticized a national citizenship test, which is to become compulsory for immigrants and which includes questions seeking the applicant's view on forced marriages and homosexuality.
That test has also been questioned by Sebastian Edathy, Social Democrat Chairman of the Parliament's Domestic Affairs Committee, who has asked the Federal Interior Ministry to review it on the grounds that many questions have incorrect multiple-choice answers and that some are irrelevant for a citizenship test. Ministry officials, however, have rejected his demands and said that the test in its present form will come into effect next month.
THE DISTRICT COURT IN AMSTERDAM DECIDES IN FAVOR OF AN IMMIGRANT
A district court in Amsterdam has recently ruled in favor of an illiterate Moroccan woman who had been rejected for a visa.
The Amsterdam court found a loophole in the toughened immigration restrictions – the language test requirement had been omitted from a clause referring to family reunification and the court therefore ruled in favor of the woman, granting that, as the law stands, she cannot be required to pass a Dutch language exam before coming to join her husband in the Netherlands.
Despite the ruling, she will be required to pass another integration test within three and half years to maintain residency in the Netherlands.
The Court's decision has upset those politicians who favor strict control of immigrants from non-Western countries: they have vowed to fix the law to cover the loophole exposed by the Amsterdam District Court.
On the other hand, the ruling was welcomed by human rights' activists, who say the requirement should be 'omitted entirely' since it is discriminatory and violates international human rights' law.
IMMIGRANTS GET JOBS BELOW THEIR COMPETENCE LEVEL
Although the employment rate for immigrants in Norway has increased substantially over the years, many of them still get jobs below their competence level.
Results from the Norwegian Institute for Social Research reveal that many employers lack the will or ability to integrate foreigners into their workforce. Further, their competence may not be recognized in the country. In some cases, Norwegian authorities do not recognize the education or training received in other countries and insist that even professionals must recertify in Norway.
One of the most visible problems remains the immigrants' insufficient knowledge of a level of Norwegian required in work.
At the end of June, the Lithuanian Parliament approved a new Citizenship Law that guarantees some people the right to dual citizenship. The law must be signed by the President in order to come into force. According to the new law, dual citizenship will be granted to several groups of people:
The new Citizenship Law further presupposes that the issue of Lithuanian citizenship can be validated for those individuals who, although prior to the Constitutional Court's ruling, have presented their applications before 16 November 2006.
Some MPs perceived limiting the right to dual citizenship to Lithuanians living in EU and NATO member states as discriminatory, since those who emigrated to countries such as Australia or the Ukraine were excluded.
Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania can be granted to an individual where they meet the following requirements: passing an examination in the national language; having a document proving their right to permanent residence in Lithuania at the time of presenting their citizenship application; having lived in Lithuanian territory for the past ten years; having sufficient legal means; and having passed the examination on a basic understanding of the Lithuanian Constitution.
CONFERENCE ON IMMIGRATION POLICY
German and Turkish immigration experts met to discuss future integration policies in Germany whilst attending the "Integration versus Assimilation – A Transnational Attempt at Thinking" conference in Istanbul.
The integration debate between Germany and Turkey started after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan gave a speech in Cologne that called on Turks in Germany not to give up their identity and in which he said that assimilation is a "crime against humanity".
At the conference, the questions of identity, bilingualism, intercultural competence and the role of religion among Turkish immigrants in Germany were discussed.
In an interview on the issues of immigration policy, and the problems immigrants face today, for the Turkish newspaper 'Today's Zaman', Mustafa Ünal1 and Professor Dieter Oberndörfer2 agreed that "it is still possible to integrate 2.7 million Turks successfully into German society" and that controversial speeches by various politicians have been exaggerated in public debate.
Ünal also submitted that assimilation should be neither the aim of, nor the solution for, integration policy and stated that he had no doubts about German politics in this respect. However, he criticized a recently approved law, which forces the spouses of Turkish immigrants to learn German if they want to join their husbands or wives. In his view, it should be revisited.
Professor Oberndörfer agrees the new regulations seem to be as discriminatory as they are problematic from a legal point of view. Moreover, they give a negative impression to the new citizenship test for foreigners, who are obliged to pass it to gain German citizenship.
Both agreed that the real problem, of getting the immigrants to identify properly with the State and German society, will not be solved by such a test. "The real problem lies much deeper, we have to make our country more attractive for our immigrants," Oberndörfer said.
1A founding member of the Justice and Development Party and a deputy of the Parliamentary German-Turkish Friendship Group
FRANCE PROPOSES NEW PACT ON IMMIGRATION
In July, when France takes over the Presidency of the European Union, it is expected to propose a European pact on immigration.
Rules proposed by President Sarkozy will call for more effective deportation measures and compulsory language lessons, as well as the implementation of the biometric visas.
Furthermore, the pact will call on the member states to establish compulsory "immigration contracts" to ensure that new immigrants accept and adopt national and European values such as gender equality and tolerance.
In addition, the agreement will include new suggestions for returning unlawful migrants to their home countries more efficiently.
IMMIGRANTS WILL HAVE TO PASS A CITIZENSHIP TEST
Beginning 1 September 2008, any applicant for German citizenship will have to pass a citizenship test. The multiple-choice test will cover areas such as Germany's political system and society, and also German history. The 33 questions will be picked at random from a list of just over 300 and would-be citizens will have to answer just over half of them correctly.
The opposition and migrant organizations have criticized this move, saying that the content is superfluous and that language classes are more useful than swotting for a rote test. They think that anyone who can learn stuff by heart can easily pass this kind of test and that therefore a greater emphasis should be given on immigrants having a good command of German.
An Interior Ministry spokesman defended the examination but added that organizational difficulties could still stand in the way of a punctual launch. The questions are still being worked on and are not due to be published until the cabinet has approved them in late July or early August. Ulrich Aengenvoort, the director of Germany's Volkshochschulen (VHS), the educational institute charged with conducting the test, conceded that the timetable was tight but was confident that the VHS would cope.
EU DEAL ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
EU diplomats endorsed a deal on illegal immigration limiting to six months the period over which illegal immigrants can be detained within the EU.
The agreement stresses that the detention "will only be permitted where other less coercive measures cannot be applied". It has nevertheless been criticized by pressure groups because it includes provisions allowing officials to extend the detention period for further 12 months, for instance, if the immigrant refuses to cooperate.
The debate on the EU's Return Directive comes at a sensitive time for Europe, with some governments seeking to crack down on the seemingly unstoppable flow of Africans and Asians who continue to enter their territories illegally.
At the same time, the conservative Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi said it would join other European countries such as France in making illegal immigration a criminal offence. This move has been criticized by Spain, which fears that would-be immigrants coming from Africa will try to reach its territory instead.
The deal on the Return Directive also regulates the deportation of illegal immigrants, re-admission to their country of origin and access by non-governmental organizations to EU detention centers. Furthermore, it does not force governments to pay for the illegal immigrants' legal aid; instead, they may set aside the necessary funds needed to assist migrants.
The European Parliament will vote on the package in June. This is the first time that the European Parliament has been given a decisive voice on immigration, an issue normally reserved to the competence of member states.
IRELAND PROPOSES VOTING RIGHTS FOR EU MIGRANTS
Irish Minister for Integration, Conor Lenihan, has announced plans to allow EU migrant workers to vote in national elections. According to him, to extend the vote on elections to the Irish Parliament and local government to non-Irish EU nationals living in the state could help their integration into society, where, by refusing them the vote, their integration and adoption of Irish citizenship might be postponed.
The Minister said that in return for full voting rights, and before taking up permanent resident status, the migrants would have to prove their ability to speak English.
To date EU migrant workers have not had the right to vote in Irish general or local elections. Under the new plans, all EU migrants in the Republic, both those taking up permanent residence or citizenship and those not doing so, will have the right to vote.
It also would mean that EU immigrants – and a limited number of migrants from outside Europe – would be required to pass an English language test before gaining permanent residency or an Irish passport.
The minister also noted that Ireland would reject the UK multicultural model for absorbing immigrants, and that proposals were being drawn up to increase the number of "citizenship ceremonies", which involve foreign nationals being obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the Irish Constitution.
Minister Lenihan rejected capping the numbers of foreign workers legally entering the Irish Republic, even in the face of economic downturn. But he warned that Ireland would tighten its border controls in order to halt illegal immigrants and asylum seekers entering the state. Lenihan, who in the 1980s worked for the Inner London Education Authority, said he had witnessed the UK's multicultural "experiment" at first hand and that he agreed with Trevor Phillips, the UK Equality Commissioner, that multiculturalism had led to the creation of ethnic ghettoes.
"Ireland will operate in the happy medium between the worst mistakes of multiculturalism and extreme assimilation", Lenihan said. "There will not be an American-style insistence on holding your hand to your heart and saluting the flag each day - that is not the Irish way. But neither will we be encouraging the creation of separate racial or ethnic areas."
OPINION POLL SHOWS TURKS FEEL LIKE UNWANTED GUESTS
The survey, released ahead of the German Islam Conference on 13th March, where integration issues topped the agenda, revealed that over half the Turks living in Germany feel like unwanted guests.
Over three-quarters of the Turkish respondents, both with and without German citizenship, said that Chancellor Merkel did not adequately represent people with a Turkish background.
Ninety-two percent agreed that "Turks in Germany should preserve their own culture" and nearly as many (89 percent) felt that German society should be more considerate about the customs of Turkish immigrants.
Nevertheless, 83 percent of the Turks surveyed considered the German language a key to success as an immigrant and two-thirds did not regret their decision to come to Germany.
Bearing in mind the opinions represented in the survey, Maria Boehmer (Integration Commissioner) said that Germany had to do more to strengthen the feeling of belonging for people of Turkish background since as many as 2.7 million Turks are also part of German society and belong to the country.
INCREASING NUMBERS OF FOREIGNERS GAIN NORWEGIAN CITIZENSHIP
In 2007, the number of people who gained Norwegian citizenship increased to about 14,400, a huge leap from the year before, when just 11,000 became citizens. Much of the increase was attributed to the expanded capacity of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration to handle applications.
The head of the Immigration Directorate said that more and more asylum-seekers and immigrants who have lived in Norway for many years are choosing to become Norwegians.
The largest group to gain citizenship was Iraqi (2,581), closely followed by Somalian (2,187). People from Afghanistan, Serbia, and Iran were also well represented.
To become a citizen of Norway, an applicant must:
There are also several exceptions to the law; for example that spouses of Norwegian citizens need to have lived in Norway for only three years (or two years if they come from the Nordic region).
LIBERAL PARTY SUGGESTS MANDATORY CITIZENSHIP COURSE FOR IMMIGRANTS
Following earlier recommendations that knowledge of Swedish should be a requirement for citizenship, the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) now wants to expand the requirement to include a mandatory citizenship course for all immigrants seeking Swedish citizenship.
The party suggests that every adult who moves to Sweden will be invited to take the course. Those who wish to seek Swedish citizenship will be required to learn the material presented there.
The course is to be extensive and free of tuition charges; it will deal with the rights and responsibilities of Swedish society "as well as the basic values upon which the society is built."
The party proposes the course on the basis that citizenship should not be seen as a formality, but as an important societal contract between the state and the individual. To emphasize the gravity of citizenship, the proposal suggests that county councils arrange special citizenship ceremonies.
ERDOGAN'S PROPOSALS FOR TURKISH-MEDIUM EDUCATION IN GERMANY FALL ON STONY GROUND
During his visit to Germany, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for the establishment of Turkish-language schools and universities. His plan had a negative response across German society.
During a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and school students from Berlin, in which they discussed such problems for young migrants as the language barrier, Prime Minister Erdogan said he was in favor of integration and against assimilation; adding that "people's differences must be accepted".
He also noted that in Germany, which is home to about 2.5 million Turks, it should be possible to set up schools and universities with Turkish as a medium of instruction; he added that Turkey would be willing to send over teachers. Merkel reacted cautiously to the idea, saying she foresaw difficulties if Turkish teachers were to work in German schools. Other politicians said it would be an obstacle to integration, not a help.
Education ministers from Germany's 16 federal states have agreed to promote the teaching of foreign languages in schools and linguists have long been saying that a good grasp of one's native tongue is an important prerequisite for learning new languages.
Yet Erdogan's proposals remain politically controversial. Politicians warned against exporting Turkish educational institutions to Germany. Some have pointed out that six Turkish-German schools already exist in Germany.
Other politicians said they were in favor of teaching Turkish in schools in Germany, but that it had to be done by locally trained teachers who were familiar with the problems of migrants.
Kenan Kolat, Chairperson of the Turkish Community, was also critical of Erdogan's proposal, saying that though the native tongue, Turkish, is important, yet both languages are on an equal footing within the Community. He rejected the idea of importing teachers from Turkey, as they do not know the society.
Integration is as delicate a topic in Germany as it is in many other European countries with large immigrant populations. Children from immigrant backgrounds perform markedly worse at school than their German counterparts. Merkel has raised the issue of helping young immigrants get a better education to avoid alienation and to help them find jobs.
A DEBATE OVER GREEK-MEDIUM SCHOOLS IN GERMANY
A recent proposal by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to set up Turkish-medium schools in Germany triggered criticism by Germany's politicians and provoked renewed debate on integrating immigrants into society. However, sending children of immigrant background to a school that teaches in their mother tongue is not as unusual as the row suggests.
The response ignored the fact that one immigrant group in Germany has had its own schools for decades. Since the 1960's, Germany's Greek immigrant community has had the option of sending their children to Greek schools, where the curriculum is set by the Greek state and where Greek is the language of instruction. A fifth of the estimated 47,000 students of Greek origin attend one of 35 Greek schools in Germany.
Michael Damanakis, of the University of Crete in Greece and a former teacher in a Greek school in Germany in the 1970s, said the schools had little to do with preserving the national identity of Greek immigrants in Germany, many of whom came to the country in the 1960s to fill the demand for cheap labor. He said that the schools serve only a practical purpose – to secure a place at a Greek university. Most students switch to the Greek school system after secondary school with the aim of getting a Greek high school diploma. The conditions of the Greek school system are easier for students and parents make use of it to secure a place for their children at a university.
"Greek schools in Germany have no credible legitimacy from an education viewpoint," Damanakis said. "These schools separate Greek children from Germans and other nationalities and you should not forget that the segregation of minorities, whether ethnic or social, leads to marginalization and unequal opportunities in the long-term."
The first Greek schools in Germany were founded in the 1960s. Over a million Greeks came to Germany between 1959 and 1990, according to statistics. Around 800,000 returned to Greece after a short or long-term stay in Germany. Konstantin Dimitriou, chairman of the Association of Greek Communities in Germany, says that the situation is more complex today. Greece's entry into the European Union had significantly changed the migration patterns of Greeks, making them much more mobile.
At present, thousands of temporary Greek migrants still come to Germany with their children, work for two or three years, largely in Greek-owned businesses, and then return home. And this is the point at which the Greek schools make sense – they allow the children of temporary migrant workers to integrate without problems in a Greek school when they return home.
At the same time, many Greek immigrants in Germany want to stay and have no plans to return. Here, Dimitriou pointed to the above average number of jobless and professionally unqualified students who qualify from Greek schools in Germany. These schools' curricula do not provide sufficient opportunities for Greek children who live permanently in Germany; they are in need of reform. It would be more appropriate if a school program did not stick to the national curriculum of the country of origin but met the specific needs of children living in Germany.
On the other hand, Germany's three-tier school system, each tailored to specific education abilities and skills, has been widely criticized by educational experts. A number of international studies have found fault with the system, which they say, discriminates in particular against children from immigrant backgrounds.
"The fact that the German educational system is not very open to immigrant children led Greek parents and communities to look for alternatives," Dimitriu said, pointing out that many parents invest a lot of money in tuition and special lessons for their children within the German system. The Greek community in Berlin, with the help of the local government, has established two bilingual schools.
For the past 40 years, Greek community and educational experts have debated the pros and cons of Greek schools in Germany. But the most telling fact is reflected in statistics: they show that 80 percent of all students of Greek origin in Germany do attend a German school for some period.
MARIANO RAJOY: "IMMIGRANTS MUST RESPECT SPANISH CUSTOMS AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE"
Mariano Rajoy, an opposition leader and a candidate for Prime Minister (Partido Popular party) has proposed some measures he wants included in a 'contract of integration' for immigrants.
Speaking at his party's conference on immigration held in Barcelona, Mariano Rajoy said the contract should apply to all immigrants, excluding only EU-member states nationals who ask for permission to stay in the country for more than a year.
According to his proposals, immigrants would have to give a commitment to respect Spanish customs and laws and to learn the Spanish language; and would have to leave if they were unable to find work after a certain, unspecified, period of time. Mr. Rajoy said the immigrants would have the same rights as Spaniards in return for those commitments.
He also added that any foreigner who committed a crime would be expelled, even if they had a residence permit. Rajoy hopes to make agreements throughout Europe, so that criminals thrown out of Spain would be prevented from returning to any other country within the European Union.
He also suggested a new State Agency for immigration and employment, which would be charged with supervising the selection, training and employment of foreign workers, in response to the true needs of Spanish companies.
GOVERNMENT PROPOSES NEW RULES FOR UK CITIZENSHIP
The UK Government has proposed further changes to the rules for migrants who wish to attain British citizenship, including adding a probationary period for new citizens; requiring that migrants pay towards helping communities deal with the impact of increased immigration; and bringing in tough measures for prospective citizens who commit offenses. Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith said that these changes are clear and fair for everybody - future migrants would need to "earn" citizenship. This scraps the current system that allows people to apply for naturalisation based on how long they have lived in the UK.
The changes to citizenship legislation would be backed by a single new piece of legislation that will replace all existing immigration laws, which will be tabled before Parliament in November 2008.
If the naturalization measures were passed into law, they would introduce a 'path to citizenship', which would propose:
NEW CHALLENGES FROM PRESIDENT SARKOZY
At a press conference held on 8 January, Nicolas Sarkozy - a strong supporter of tougher immigration rules – said he welcomed the progress of his ideas through Europe. The Prime Ministers of Italy and Spain had just suggested a region-wide policy of expelling illegal immigrants from their countries.
Among other issues, he defended his recent decision that the French State would stop funding the English-language version of the state-owned news channel, France 24, which currently delivers news in English, French and Arabic. The President stated that he was not prepared to support programming in other than the state language.
The TV channel 'France 24' was launched in December 2006 by ex-President Jacques Chirac, aiming to challenge the dominance of the English-language broadcast leaders BBC World and CNN. This year it should have started broadcasting in Spanish as well.
NO EXTRA FUNDS FROM CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
The central government will not allocate extra money to solve problems caused by the large concentration of immigrant workers, primarily from Poland, says the Minister for Social Affairs.
Minister Piet Hein Donner welcomes the initiative of representatives from nearly one hundred local councils, who met in the city of Rotterdam to discuss local authority solutions to the growing problem of Eastern European workers coming to the Netherlands.
Rotterdam City Council, in particular, has complained that eastern Europeans are forming new ghettos. The number of Poles in Rotterdam has increased from about 2,500 in 2006 to an estimated 15,000 at present.
According to researchers Regioplan, there are approximately 100,000 people from the new EU member-states in the Netherlands and 80 percent of these are Poles. Most of them work in sectors that attract few Dutch workers, such as construction, horticulture, transport or meat processing.
The council representatives at Rotterdam called unanimously for compulsory language and parenting classes for Poles to ensure they are properly integrated into Dutch society.
A CHANGE IN FUNDING FOR ESOL CLASSES
Last year the Government had to halt free ESOL classes for migrants when high demand had them exceed budgeting. Under new proposals, people who do not speak English will make a contribution to the course fees of 37.5 percent; rising to 50 percent in 2010 (a typical ESOL course costs around £900).
John Denham, Secretary of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, confirmed, however, that English language skills were needed for encouraging "community cohesion and integration". The change in the current funding structure is claimed to give priority to long-term residents for whom poor English is a real barrier to integration in work and in the community.
Under the proposals being put out for consultation, local authorities would be able to direct funds towards the working migrants they consider a priority – they could decide who receives free ESOL lessons based on local needs. Denham said the changes to ESOL courses primarily would help economic migrants who had been living in Britain for many years. Those who had been working in Britain for a shorter period would have to pay for their places on the courses.
He defended his stance by saying: "There are still too many long-term residents committed to making a contribution to Britain who cannot engage with other people in their neighborhoods - let alone play an active role in their communities - simply because their lack of English prevents it."
Denham also added that this new move would see funding specifically targeted to support community cohesion.
NO ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEST REQUIRED FOR POTENTIAL INVESTORS
The Liberal Democrats have been criticizing the UK Government for ceasing English language test for foreign investors who hold £1m or more in the bank or have £2 million worth of assets.
The cash can be loaned to them - provided it comes from a bank or other financial institution regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
A Home Office spokesman said there would be strict controls to ensure both that wealthy migrants had the money they claimed and that it was subsequently invested in British business. Excepting property investment firms, they must spend £750,000 on government bonds, shares or loans to UK companies within three months of their arrival.
Investors would be able to stay in the UK for three years without having to sit an English test and may be able to apply for an extension beyond that. However, if they want to stay in the country permanently, they will also have to pass an English language test.
Ministers have defended their move by saying that they do not want to deter investment, but are being criticized for adopting unworkable dual standards.
Source: BBC News, January 18, 2008
NEW AMENDMENTS TO IMMIGRATION LAW
In an effort to bring its immigration laws in line with other European countries, the Czech Parliament has tightened requirements for permanent residency. The new measure is waiting for President Vaclav Klaus' signature to become law. The new amendment requires that non-European Union residents who marry Czech citizens live here for two years and be married to a Czech for at least one year before receiving permanent residency. These provisions would become effective as soon as Klaus signs the amendment.
Those not married to Czechs would need to prove that they speak Czech to get permanent residency. This measure would take effect in January 2009.
The amendment of the law, however, defines some cases in which the knowledge of the Czech language will not be required. For instance, children younger than 15 and foreigners older than 60 will not be required to prove their Czech language proficiency.
The stricter conditions for obtaining permanent residency are based on the rising number of fake marriages with Czech citizens.
Hana Malá, a Ministry of the Interior spokesperson, said that the waiting period would also discourage those who claim paternity of Czech babies to get a permanent residency permit; adding that it is a crime to marry only to give a foreigner permanent residency status.
Some people, however, feel this amendment will punish those following the law, and not those seeking illegal fake marriages. For example, Vera Polo, a social worker at the Center for the Integration of Foreigners, says that this law will hurt families because spouses will not be entitled to public benefits or health insurance within the wait period.
The Czech Republic can now be counted as one of those European countries that are strengthening immigration laws to battle the tide of foreigners seeking to live there.
POINTS-BASED SYSTEM ABOUT TO START
The biggest changes in the immigration system in the history of the UK are to start in January. Highly-skilled immigrants from India and other non-European countries will be given a hassle-free entry into Britain.
The five-tier scheme for non-EU migrants places doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and IT experts in the top tier.
Tier two workers include nurses, teachers and plumbers, who will be able to come to Britain only if there is a shortfall in the workforce.
People applying for low skilled work (for instance, in a restaurant or domestic service) will be granted entry to fill specific job vacancies for fixed periods, but must leave afterwards.
In order to ensure that they do not stay on illegally, they may be asked to show open return-tickets, submit to having their biometrics taken, or post a refundable bond before coming. However, the new system will make it hard for unskilled and low skilled workers to obtain jobs and they will have no rights to stay on or apply for citizenship.
At present, the British Government faces two major pressures on the job market: on one hand, it is obliged by law to accommodate more and more European immigrants in its growing economy, including highly-skilled workers from Eastern European countries. On the other hand, an increasing number of highly skilled workers from India are keen to work in Britain and increase their earnings.
Immigration is also a politically sensitive issue. Whilst there is a need to fill a gap that is expected to widen in the future, the government has come under criticism from its political opponents over loopholes in immigration controls.
Source: Sify News, December 5, 2007
"THE LESS YOU TRANSLATE, THE MORE YOU CAN SPEND ON ENGLISH CLASSES"
Announcing new government guidelines, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears urged councils to use common sense before spending money on translating documents and signs into foreign languages.
The Secretary pointed out that English should be used wherever possible to make it easier for immigrants to integrate into society; therefore, it is important to focus primarily on learning English, not on translation. For instance, there should be more pictures used with explanations in English alongside – both to get the message across and to help teach the language.
She said that translation can never be a substitute for learning English, adding that automatic translation of all public materials can just reinforce the language barrier and make it harder to integrate non-English speaking residents into the country.
Source: BBC News, December 7, 2007
LISBON TREATY SIGNED
In mid-December a new EU treaty and Charter of Fundamental Rights were signed. The new Lisbon Treaty takes on most of the features of the rejected European Constitution, including a foreign policy chief, a long-term president of the EU, a binding citizens' rights charter and the establishment of areas where member states have the right of veto.
Each member state has to ratify the treaty for it to come into force. If ratified by EU member states it will give the new Charter a legal base as well as enshrine respect for linguistic and cultural diversity in EU law.
Article 21 clearly embeds linguistic rights in the EU and gives grounds for appeal in cases of language discrimination or for being a "member of a national minority". It stipulates: "Any discrimination based on any grounds such as sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited." Article 22 states that, "The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity."
It is, however, important to emphasize that these rights will only apply to EU-based acts and legislation and not to domestic State legislation. The Charter will not apply in the UK and Poland, which have both opted out. However, in theory, it will give those language groups, such as Breton and Occitan speakers in France, against which discrimination continues, some grounds for redress if they are discriminated against in any EU-based acts and legislation. The Charter will usefully complement other international instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the EU is also likely to become a party.
In addition, the new Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) will be able to monitor and make reports on discrimination. It will not be able to intervene on behalf of citizens but, according to an FRA document, it aims to help the EU and its member states, "respect fully fundamental rights when they take measures or formulate courses of action. Therefore, the FRA's task is to provide advice based on its expertise and as a result of its activities."
SWISS ADVERTISE TO WARN OFF AFRICAN MIGRANTS
The Swiss Government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) based in Geneva have funded a TV advertising campaign in Africa to deter illegal immigrants.
The adverts, which have been aired on prime-time television in Nigeria and Cameroon, show African immigrants in Europe living in asylum camps, begging on the streets, being arrested by police but also phoning home and pretending they are faring well. "Fleeing does not mean starting a new life," is the closing message of the film, which was broadcast on Nigerian state television at half-time during a televised football match between Switzerland and Nigeria.
The aim of the campaign was to "give a more balanced view of irregular migration", said an IOM spokesperson. Many African migrants seeking to live in Europe paid thousands of dollars to smuggling networks that put them at risk of exploitation and deportation, he added.
The campaigners also point out that the African advertisement broadcast is designed to save the lives of poor African migrants who often suffer from drowning while trying to flee to Europe.
Christoph Blocher, Switzerland's Justice Minister, has fully supported the campaign. His party, which now has its largest recorded majority in parliament, is also known for an anti-immigration election campaign run this year which depicted white sheep standing on a Swiss flag kicking a black sheep from their midst. The slogan accompanying the image was "More Security".
Source: The Times Online, November 26, 2007
ITALY AND ROMANIA URGE EU TO TACKLE MIGRATION PROBLEMS
In a joint letter, the Prime Ministers of Italy and Romania have urged the European Commission to help EU countries cope with the integration of other member states' citizens - in particular of Roma origin.
They called on the EU Executive to develop a "European strategy of inclusion for the Roma" and other disadvantaged people, as well as clearer rules on deporting EU citizens who do not fulfill the conditions for living in other member states.
Earlier this month Italy adopted measures allowing the local authorities to expel migrants without proper documentation and those with existing police records. In argument, they used the public outcry over the rising number of crimes committed by foreigners, particularly Romanian citizens of Roma origin.
Bucharest reacted by protesting against its citizens being singled out as the target of such extraordinary measures, highlighting particularly cases of racist attacks on Romanian immigrants by Italians.
Subsequently, Prime Ministers of both countries met in Rome and agreed on some bilateral action to tackle the problem. Romania will strengthen its consular network in Italy, while Rome plans to introduce new measures to boost the social integration of newly arrived immigrants.
The Italian authorities estimate that around 560,000 Romanians live in the country, representing around one percent of its population. There was a significant rise of their numbers after Romania joined the EU in January 2007.
"BLUE CARD" FOR HIGHLY-SKILLED IMMIGRANTS
To address the problems of labor shortages and an ageing population, the European Union has proposed a "blue card" system to attract highly-skilled workers.
The blue card is designed to attract and, where necessary, to retain foreign workers in the EU labor market.
According to Commission estimates, labor shortages will peak around 2050, when 25 million Europeans are expected to retire from work and one-third of the population will be over 65 years of age.
EU Home-Affairs Commissioner, Franco Frattini, an author of the proposal, pointed out that, by comparison with other immigration countries, Europe had so far failed to win highly-skilled workers.
In Europe, non-European highly-qualified workers make up only 1.7 percent of the employed population, where they account for nearly ten percent in Australia, over seven percent in Canada and over three percent in the US.
According to Brussels, this is the result of several bad practices - migrants face 27 different admission systems and cannot easily move from one country to another for work.
The EU blue card - if implemented - would allow non-EU nationals to live and work in the 27-member bloc for a renewable two-year period. After five continuous years, a migrant could apply for permanent residency.
To qualify for a blue card, a migrant worker would need to hold a recognized diploma, have three years professional experience, and have a minimum one-year job contract.
Brussels envisages harmonization of admission rules as well as guaranteeing newcomers the same social and economic rights to health-care, taxes or pensions as those of their national counterparts.
EU Commissioner Frattini said that not all nations would have to take part in the blue card scheme.
The UK, for instance, said it would study the new scheme but would probably stay with developing its new points-based scheme, set to start functioning in 2008.
DIVIDED BELGIUM AGREES ON TOUGHER IMMIGRATION RULES
Belgium, divided between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, has been 120 days without a new government since the national elections. Political parties have not yet been able to agree on the country's future direction and fears are growing that the multilingual country will dissolve.
The country is deadlocked over the Flemish parties' push for greater regional autonomy against their Francophone rivals' grasp on national solidarity.
Just recently however, both sides were able to put aside the political crisis and agree on one issue: a tougher approach on asylum and migration policies. Immigration may be the unifying issue in Belgium, as it is over much of Europe.
Under the provisional agreement, which will only come into force if the parties form a government, migrants from outside the European Union will be able to come to fill jobs only if there are not enough EU candidates.
The parties also agreed to stricter rules for immigrants who want to join family members in Belgium, including proof that they have sufficient income.
Furthermore, it would reserve Belgian citizenship for those who have spent five uninterrupted years in the country and who speak one of Belgium's official languages - French, Dutch or German.
Source: The International Herald Tribune, October 9, 2007 by Dan Bilefsky
DNA BILL PASSED BY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND SENATE
This controversial measure – DNA tests to verify family ties – was passed by 282 votes to 235 in the National Assembly and by 185 votes to 136 in the Senate.
The bill originally included compulsory genetic testing to verify the bloodlines of would-be immigrants who want to join family members already living in France.
Following uproar among politicians (even within President Sarkozy's ruling UMP party), intellectuals and immigrant groups, an amendment watered this down to make the DNA tests voluntary. The tests, which will be introduced for an 18-month trial period, will now be based on the mother to avoid paternity disputes, and they will be paid for by the state rather than by immigrants themselves.
MINISTER OF JUSTICE STATES LATVIA MUST PROTECT ITS LABOR MARKET
The Latvian Minister of Justice, Gaidis Berzins, has criticized the Latvian Employers' Confederation for its stance on the need to simplify procedures for the legal employment of foreigners.
The Minister stated that Latvia must continue to protect its labor market and that to attract guest workers must therefore remain an expensive and time-consuming procedure. Gaidis Berzins believes that the influx of a cheap foreign workforce will have a negative impact on several social and economic issues. His view is that Latvia must attract only qualified guest workers from EU countries, who are ready to learn the Latvian language and to respect Latvian culture and traditions.
Source: Integration and Minority Information Service of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights, October 2, 2007 Vesti Segodnya
"BRIEFING PACKS" FOR IMMIGRANTS
According to new plans set up by the Government, immigrants will be given so-called "cultural briefing packs" giving them tips on acceptable behavior and setting out their rights and responsibilities.
The packs are part of a £50 million budget aimed at building bridges between ethnic communities. The £50 million budget is a substantial increase on the £2 million allocated this year to "community cohesion". Councils will use the money to promote interaction between people from different backgrounds through youth projects, school twinning and local pride campaigns.
The new approach is also intended to reduce the number of translators, which costs public bodies millions of pounds each year, and to put greater emphasis on learning English. New guidance notes will tell local authorities that they should only translate where necessary.
Source: The Telegraph, October 6, 2007
The results of the Migrant Integration Policy Index (2006-2007) have been released recently and revealed how well European nations integrate newcomers into their mainstream society.
MIPEX, first compiled in 2004, measures policies to integrate migrants in 25 EU Member States and 3 non-EU countries (Norway, Switzerland and Canada). It uses over 140 policy indicators to create a rich, multi-dimensional picture of migrants' opportunities to participate in European societies. MIPEX covers six policy areas, which shape a migrant's journey to full citizenship: labor market access, family reunion, long-term residence, political participation, access to nationality and anti-discrimination.
The rankings have become a key indicator for European nations struggling with how to improve immigration policies and promote reforms encouraging greater social harmony and economic benefits among countries with significant immigrant flows.
This year MIPEX has revealed the following results (a score of 100 would represent the most welcoming possible legal framework for the integration of immigrants):
Source: Migrant Integration Policy Index homepage
NEW RESEARCH PROJECT ON SECOND GENERATION IMMIGRANTS
Immigration to Europe and the subsequent integration of newcomers is one of the foremost challenges for Europe's increasingly multi-cultural cities. However, the integration of second-generation immigrants is also crucial to a harmonious multicultural society.
A new internationally standardized research tool, developed with support from the EU-funded 'Marie Curie Fellowship Programme', now makes it possible for the first time to assess the situation for this second generation.
The TIES project (The Integration of the European Second Generation) is a timely study on the topic of integration in all its aspects - economic, social, educational, and even in terms of identity.
The main objective of this project is to investigate the integration of the second generation in several European countries. It is being implemented across eight countries in fifteen cities. As part of this work, scientists in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland have jointly developed a survey that can be used in all countries.
The survey focuses on economic and social criteria, education and identification processes. It covers subjects including employment, language, family relations, gender roles, religion, political participation and experiences of discrimination.
Analyzing the data gathered from the surveys will establish the first-ever, systematic, European database that will enable a comparison of cross-generational integration processes in Europe. The impact of this study will also help improve the general understanding and assist in the development of policies at all levels of government.
IMMIGRATION BILL APPROVED BY THE FRENCH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The French National Assembly has passed a controversial bill tightening entry conditions for the relatives of immigrants living in France.
As reported earlier, relatives will have to prove under this legislation that they are financially solvent and have a good knowledge of the French language and French values. Furthermore, the bill includes controversial plans for DNA testing of foreigners seeking to join family members living in France. If immigration officials doubt that an applicant is a genuine relative of the person they seek to join, they could be asked to take, and pay for, a DNA test to prove a biological link. An amendment to the bill on these tests says they will be carried out for a trial period of only two years.
The opposition voted against the bill, which will be debated in the Senate in October.
Source: BBC News, September 20, 2007
TWO-THIRDS OF UNEMPLOYED YOUNG VIENNESE ARE OF MIGRANT BACKGROUND
A study commissioned by Vienna's public employment office has revealed that two thirds of all unemployed young people registered in the Austrian capital come from families with an immigrant background.
Whilst only approximately 30 percent of Viennese aged between 15 and 21 had a migrant background, the unemployment rate amongst such second-generation immigrant Austrians was disproportionally high.
The survey said that the main reasons for the disproportionality were language problems, education levels and "cultural" issues. Despite having been in the country since early childhood and being for the most part naturalized citizens, children of guest workers have inferior language skills - they often speak only their mother tongue at home, and rarely have education levels higher than their parents'. Whilst their fathers could get away with speaking only basic German, prospective employers today often demand fluency in the language.
Source: ENAR Weekly Mail 104, August 10, 2007 and EUX.TV, News, August 2, 2007
SPAIN SUPPORTS LATIN AMERICAN MIGRANT NEEDS
The Spanish Government's attempts to help immigrants make the most of the money they earn -- to ease the process of sending remittances and material back home -- are leading many Latin American immigrants to Spain instead of the United States. Experts say that a shared language certainly eases the process of finding a place to work and live, adding that Spain is also one of the countries doing the most to help immigrants integrate economically.
Moreover, the results of a recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank have also shown that the majority of Latin American emigrants are starting to choose Europe, and in particular Spain, over the United States.
In the past six years, Spain's foreign-born population has more than quadrupled, to nearly 4 million people. Ecuadorians are the biggest group of Latin Americans living in Spain. In Madrid and Barcelona, for instance, there are shops where they can pay for appliances and have them delivered to an address in Ecuador. One company is test-marketing ATMs that allow users to pay for grocery purchases, medical treatment or cell phones in Ecuador. There is also an immigrant bank set up by one of the largest banks in Spain – it offers no-commission money transfers and the option of getting a mortgage in Spain for a home in Latin America.
Many experts agree that this kind of help is more effective for a Third World country's progress than traditional development aid.
TV STATION FOR ETHNIC MINORITIES IN THE AARHUS COUNTY
In 1997, the non-commercial Indvandrer TV station (ITV) and the Media House Aarhus started to cooperate to give ethnic minorities a chance to speak up and be more visible in the Danish media landscape. ITV was the first multicultural TV station in Denmark.
ITV plans overall to build bridges between ethnic minority groups and Danish society and to show how ethnic minorities can contribute positively to Danish society. It provides multilingual news, music and cultural and current affairs programs for ethnic groups usually ignored by the mainstream media.
Since its establishment, the Danish Ministry of Culture and a number of private Foundations have supported ITV. There are about twenty employees; most of them work as volunteers. ITV broadcasts its programs via TV Denmark East Jutland in Aarhus County and has approximately 650,000 viewers.
Source: Indvandrer TV website
"A DAY OF CIVIC TRAINING"
Since January 2007, the "Contract of Welcome and Integration" has been mandatory for all people outside the European Union applying for long-term visas, except for students and seasonal workers. It is part of the immigration regulations passed in July 2006 - known as "Sarkozy's Law" – which include medical examination, interview and language assessment.
The Contract has added a new criterion – a day of civic training, regardless of the applicant's language fluency and the length of time spent in France. On an eight-hour training agenda, there are lessons in French history, laws and values, as well as a presentation on the European Union.
French integration policies are similar to those established by other EU countries, including tests for potential citizens on language, culture and the country's values. However, some migrants and political critics feel that the French version's emphasis on national identity and "Frenchness" is hostile to immigration.
Source: International Herald Tribune, August 9, 2007 by Jon Frosch
A NEW PROGRAM FOR AFRICAN WORKERS
A new Spanish labor plan has been designed to help African migrants come and work legally in the country. The program, promoted by the Spanish and Senegalese Governments, aims to bring hundreds of workers to Spain with renewable one-year visas and jobs.
Spain engaged in several high-level visits to African capitals in an attempt to win better cooperation in policing African waters and clamping down on migration gangs. This resulted in several agreements with sub-Saharan countries that deal with the repatriation of illegal migrants, border security, strengthening government institutions and labor. Labor Minister, Jesus Caldera, has signed an agreement with Gambia to invest 1 million Euro to train Gambians who could be recruited for work in Spain. Similar agreements with Mali and Mauritania were signed in July.
Cooperation between Spain and African countries and better maritime surveillance has revealed some positive results: only about 6,000 migrants landed in the Canaries in the first seven months of 2007, compared with 13,000 in the same period of 2006.
Source: International Herald Tribune, August 10, 2007 by Victoria Burnett
BOOKS FOR MIGRANT WORKERS
A national collection of library books in minority languages is to be set up in Scotland. The project, let by Dundee City Council, was among those which received funding from the Scottish government.
Its aim is to improve services for Asian and Eastern European migrant workers - they and their families will be able to request books from the catalogue from the local library. The scheme allows libraries to buy materials centrally, which can be shared among local authorities regionally. Instead of each local authority buying books that are only taken out a few times, the libraries will be able to move the collection around.
Source: BBC News online, August 2, 2007
SPÖ: HUMANE APPROACH TO IMMIGRANTS
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, speaking at a Social Democrat Party festival, said foreigners who had integrated well into Austrian society should be given the right to stay there. In other words, foreigners who have already found their place in Austrian society should be given preference over newly-arrived immigrants. He called for an humane approach to the status of foreigners and said anyone who had been in Austria for more than ten years and who had no criminal record should have the right to stay.
SARKOZY ON IMMIGRATION ISSUES IN SENEGAL
French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Senegal, a country where thousands of young men risk their lives trying to reach Europe every year by sea. Senegal migrants experienced forced repatriation from the French state at the time Sarkozy was Interior Minister. Illegal immigrants were returned on Charter flights to their home countries; many of them were handcuffed and shackled on board.
In Senegal, Sarkozy defended his policies on immigration, including the controversial practice of forcibly repatriating illegal immigrants by plane.
He also said that his nation was open to those seeking to come legally, adding that 83 percent of visa applications from Senegal were approved in 2006 and that there are about 10,000 Senegalese students at French universities. Once educated, many African professionals try to stay abroad, a phenomenon he said needs to be halted for Africa's sake. "Africa needs its elite. With all of your elite in France, who will look after the development of Senegal?" Sarkozy concluded.
The immigration issue remains explosive in Senegal, but instead of taunts, Sarkozy was greeted with honor.
Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said that although there had been misunderstandings over immigration, the two heads of state were able to come to agreement in private. Wade noted that they understand each other, adding that he wants to see young Senegalese return to rebuild their own country.
NEW REFORMS AND THE SECOND INTEGRATION SUMMIT
In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel invited people from all aspects of German life to discuss the problems of immigration in the country and specifically the problems associated with the integration of immigrants. Six study groups were set up to deal with the most important factors: integration courses; learning German; education and vocational training; women's status; local integration activities; and integration activities to benefit civil society. The study groups were expected to bring these factors together in an integration plan for discussion at the second integration summit of 12 July 2007.
At the summit, representatives of the Federal Government, the State Governments and some 90 community leaders adopted a "National Integration Plan" containing 400 proposals for improvement in immigrant integration. The plan will provide federal and local officials with a framework for conducting immigrant integration programs.
The summit, however, was boycotted by major Turkish groups in protest at recent changes to the 2005 Immigration law, which tighten restrictions on foreign spouses joining their non-German partners in Germany (they can obtain permanent residency in the country if they are 18, speak basic German and have the means to support themselves). The German Government has said the law is necessary to prevent forced marriages, but Turkish leaders say they were not consulted before the changes were made and that the law discriminates against them.
In addition, a new set of reforms, approved in June, will increase the maximum number of hours of German language instruction from 600 to 900, decrease the federal subsidies offered to those immigrants who cannot afford to pay in full for the courses and impose penalties on immigrants who are required to take the courses but fail to enroll. Although the subsidy structure will change, the Federal Government has decided also to increase the integration course budget by 14 million Euros to 154 million Euros starting in 2008.
Not just Germany but all of Europe is struggling with how to best integrate their immigrant populations. It will probably be a generation before the results of integration planning can be seen.
GERMAN TURKS STICK TO TURKISH BROADCASTS
Turks are the largest minority in Germany but the powerful German TV networks neglect their needs. A recent study carried out by a German research institute has found that more than half the Turkish people living in the country watch Turkish television channels and television series, which highlights the German Turks' integration problems. "Over 90 percent of Turks in Germany have access to Turkish TV channels via satellite", explains Faruk Sen, a Director of the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen. He adds that German broadcasters do neglect foreigners living in the country and that this, along with German integration policies, may be why residents of Turkish origin only watch broadcasts from Turkey.
NEW CITIZENSHIP TEST INTRODUCED
Denmark is now launching its planned citizenship test on Danish culture, history and society. To pass, applicants must answer 28 of 40 questions correctly. The new test is complementary to the existing Danish language test and declaration of loyalty and faithfulness to Denmark.
Applicants also need to have resided in Denmark for 8 years, and need to have been self-supporting for four of the five past years.
TOUGHER RULES ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION
President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to make it harder for immigrants' families to join them in France.
Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux is currently working on a Bill that would require immigrant family members from outside the European Union both to learn basic French before coming into the country and to acquaint themselves with French history and customs.
According to extracts published in the newspaper "Le Figaro", it would also require immigrants to sign a contract agreeing to promote the integration of their families into French society.
The Bill is still subject to possible modification by the Council of State, the highest French administrative court, which must rule on draft legislation before it is submitted to parliament.
Its aim, officials say, is to improve the integration process and to reduce the numbers of unskilled immigrants.
Since Sarkozy was elected President, attention has been largely focused on his plans to revive the economy and reform the labor market. However, the speed with which this bill was drawn up indicates that immigration will remain high on the political agenda.
Sarkozy, who was Interior Minister during the riots in 2005, gained a reputation for toughness after setting quotas for the deportation of illegal immigrants and passing two laws to restrict immigration.
The reunification of families is the largest source of immigration in France and has increasingly caught the attention of policy-makers struggling to promote the integration of minority groups. Government statistics show that in 2005, for instance, 94,500 French residency permits were issued to immigrants' family members, compared with 14,000 for foreigners arriving on work visas.
In July 2006, the Government passed a law requiring immigrants to prove that they could support family members without aid from the state. This step follows a trend observed in other European countries, although the measures differ widely.
In Austria, the number of family members immigrants are allowed to bring into the country is restricted. In the Netherlands, family members have to learn Dutch before their arrival. In Germany, Britain and Italy, resident immigrants have to demonstrate adequate housing and financial provision for any family members arriving from abroad. Denmark, too, has tightened the rules on family reunification, insisting that a spouse from abroad must be at least 24 years old to qualify for entry.
Migration specialists warn that tougher rules on family immigration not only may be ineffective in limiting numbers but also may conflict with other government objectives.
International conventions signed by EU countries grant immigrants the right to bring their families to their host country and national rules can delay, but not prevent, families from coming, said Jean-Pierre Garson, an immigration expert at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Such a delay tends to have a negative impact on integration because it deprives children of valuable years in school. In addition, it carries the risk of inciting family members to try to circumvent the rules, increasing illegal immigration.
AMNESTY FOR IMMIGRANTS
The Dutch parliament has agreed to an amnesty for some 30,000 illegal immigrants, reversing the previous Government's policies.
Effectively, this means that residence permits will be given to people who applied for but failed to get asylum before 2001, excluding anyone convicted of war crimes or who has been sentenced to more than a month in prison.
Source: BBC news, June 12, 2007
MORE MINORITIES IN THE WORKFORCE
A survey by the Forum Institute for Multicultural Development and the National Network for Diversity Management (DIV) of 418 employers has revealed more people of ethnic background on staff these days than in the past. 60 percent of businesses employ at least one person of Turkish, Moroccan, Antillean or Surinamese background, compared to only 53 percent last year.
Nevertheless, these workers are still at a disadvantage compared to their native Dutch counterparts. Unemployment among minorities is more than three times higher than unemployment among native Dutch. This is not only due to poorer language skills and educational background, but also to discrimination.
Source: Expatica News, June 20, 2007
QUALITY MARK FOR INTEGRATION COURSES
More than 120 schools, companies and other organizations have applied for the Integration course Quality Mark, says the "Blik op Werk" Foundation, which administers the seal of approval. About 50 percent of applicants have been successful so far.
The Quality Mark was introduced as one of the ways to improve the national standard of integration courses, which have been heavily criticized. The Government also plans to make the language tests tougher to boost standards.
From the beginning of this year some categories of immigrants to the Netherlands, including people already settled, have been required by law to take tests in language and citizenship or face being refused residency.
Source: DutchNews.nl, June 19, 2007
'MIGRATION IMPACTS FORUM' LAUNCHED
Ministers are to consider lifting the restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work in Britain on the basis of evidence from the new "Migration Impacts Forum", which started working on 21 June 2007.
The Migration Impacts Forum (MIF) brings together experts from the voluntary sector; the Police; local government, health, education, and criminal justice systems; the CBI and the TUC to make data available to Ministers of the wider social impact of migration.
The work of the Forum will contribute to the upcoming five-tier "points-based migration system" next year, which is designed to regulate the flow of migrants. A series of "hurdles" including education qualifications and whether British workers are available to do the job will be used to ensure that only those who are needed can come to work and study in Britain. Ministers will take the MIF's evidence into account when they decide where to set the "hurdles" that migrants need to cross.
One of the first tasks facing the MIF will be to assess the effects of the arrival of 8,000 Romanians and Bulgarians in the first three months of this year after their countries joined the EU in January. Ministers will decide later this year whether the transitional restrictions imposed on them should be lifted. They included a quota of 30,000 for unskilled workers from the two countries and limits on the number of work permits for those with qualifications.
The forum will also look at the impact of recent migration on community tensions in Britain before starting on separate studies of the impact on health and social care, education, employment and skills, housing and finally crime and disorder.
A second expert organization, the Migration Advisory Committee, made up of labor market economists, is to be set up by next April and will be asked to draw up the official list of shortage occupations and entry schemes for low-skilled workers.
MIGRANTS TESTED ON "BRITISHNESS"
Since April, all foreigners wishing to settle in the UK must pass a test proving their knowledge of British history, customs and the English language. The twenty-four-question test, called "Life in the UK", covers history, politics, customs, and citizens' rights. The government says the test helps integrate migrants into British society, but newspapers have lampooned it, pointing out that many people born and bred in Britain would have difficulty answering many of the little-known historical and cultural questions.
It became a requirement for people applying for British nationality last year, and so far it has been taken by more than 200,000 migrants keen to become British citizens.
The only long-term migrants lucky enough to escape the test are citizens of most European Union member countries, who will be able to continue to live and work in Britain without restrictions.
Examinees must pay for the test, with each sitting costing GBP 34.00 (USD 70.00), while those wanting to prepare in advance are advised to purchase a test review pamphlet for another GBP 10.00 (USD 20.00).
Aside from criticism over the selection of questions, Habib Rahman, Chief Executive of the UK's Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), has said he is concerned that the test requirements might make the integration of refugees and other vulnerable groups harder.
The UK Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, thinks that the test is needed and migrants who want to live in the UK permanently recognize that there are responsibilities that go with this. He concluded: "Having a good grasp of English is essential ... to play a full role in society and properly integrate into our communities."
FINANCIAL REWARD FOR REVERSE MIGRATION
New French Minister of Immigration and National Identity, Brice Hortefeux, has introduced the concept of a financial reward for those immigrants who voluntarily return to their home country. According to him, a family with two children could be paid 6,000 Euro to leave French territory.
The concept itself is not new - in 2005 and 2006, about 3,000 foreigners left the country in exchange for money – but to propose it openly is considered controversial. And yet his comments are in line with European Commission statements in the area. EU Commissioner Frattini has noted: "In terms of illegal immigrants currently present [in the EU territory], we have to encourage them to return and follow procedures for legal entrance. This can be co-funded via European projects."
Between 2008 and 2013, the 27-nation bloc will be able to make use of a European return fund running to 676 million Euros.
LEGAL STATUS FOR "TOLERATED" IMMIGRANTS
Germany has passed a new piece of legislation that could grant legal residency status to several thousand "tolerated" foreigners. Applicants who can prove they have been living in Germany for at least eight years (six years in case of a family), who can demonstrate their interest in integration, have a place to live, no criminal record and are able to speak German, may be granted temporary German residency.
In 2005, Berlin itself strongly criticized a similar move by Spain, the member country under the greatest pressure from migrant inflow. The Spanish government had launched a program granting legal amnesty to up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants.
In response, Paris banned those who benefited from mass amnesty from working in France and the European Commission later set up a system under which each member state must inform the other members of any such moves.
THE TAOISEACH CALLS FOR DECREASE IN IMMIGRATION
The expansion of the European Union has led to an increasing influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe to an Ireland currently enjoying its third decade of unprecedented economic growth. The influx has been so dramatic that immigrants have gone from making up about 1 percent of the population 10 years ago to approximately 10 percent today.
However, it seems that Ireland is becoming concerned at the rate of influx. Earlier this month An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that he believed migration to Ireland couldn't continue at its current rate and the thousands of migrants integrate successfully.
The issue has led to considerable debate, particularly on Internet forums, with protagonists taking strong lines for and against. One thing is clear - Ahern's intervention signals that Ireland's policy towards migrants will change. New work permit laws have already been introduced covering migrant workers from the two most recent accession countries, Bulgaria and Romania.
FOREIGN BRIDES MUST SPEAK ENGLISH
The Conservatives have called for new measures to restrict the entry of foreign spouses to the UK, designed to protect young brides and to help them integrate into British society. Their proposals are similar to those in Germany - anyone joining a partner in the UK should be over 21 years old and be able to speak a basic level of English. Further restrictions are also under consideration, including a citizenship test for spouses. Damian Green, Shadow Immigration Secretary, confirmed his party's proposals that only adults may come to the UK to be married; and only those whose command of English allows them to become part of British society may stay.
EASTERN EUROPEAN MIGRANTS BARELY INTEGRATE INTO SOCIETY
One in four Eastern European migrants who live in the UK spends no time with British people, suggests a study completed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Foundation interviewed 600 migrants (from Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Ukraine and Bulgaria) before and after European Union enlargement in May 2004.
Interviewees included construction workers, farm laborers and au pairs, amongst others, and the report found that, particularly for those migrants unable to speak English, integration was a big problem. As a result, the majority of migrants interviewed spent most of their time with people from their home country or with other migrants. During their first six months in Britain, half spent none of their leisure time with Britons, and after two years, one in four migrants still did not mix with British people socially at all.
Just one-third had taken English classes and many considered the British to be "polite but distant". Four out of 10 said Britons treated them as equals, but three out of 10 said they did not.
The Report also found that two-thirds of the sample did not know how to register with a doctor and that almost half had received no information about conditions attached to their immigration status.
The foundation's director, Julia Unwin, said the research showed that the government should value migrants as "more than simply an economic resource". She said ministers "must continue to place importance on ensuring their integration into wider British society, even when their stay is expected to be temporary".
A spokesperson for the Communities Department said he recognized that "both new migrants and more settled communities can face challenges when migration patterns change". He said a report by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion next month would put forward "practical proposals to encourage better integration", including that employers provide English lessons for their staff.
Source: Tehrantimes online, News, May 30, 2007; and BBC News, May 29, 2007
MORE FUNDS FOR INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANTS
The European Commission has decided on new funds to support cross-border projects aimed at improving the integration of immigrants in the 27-member European Union.
Some four million Euros (5.4 million Dollars) would be made available for 12 initiatives that "encourage dialogue with civil society, develop integration models, seek out and evaluate good practice in the integration field and set up networks at European levels," the commission said.
Moreover, a new version of a handbook on integration designed to help member states draw up integration policies is to be published. The guidelines would include best practices in improving immigrants' access to housing and employment in the EU.
EU integration ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany, at the beginning of May were expected to discuss ways to improve member states' cooperation in integration policies and to strengthen the dialogue with other cultures.
German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country currently runs the rotating EU presidency, has said that "achieving full integration and ensuring equal opportunities for immigrants living in Europe is one of the most important challenges of EU home affairs policy." He added that intercultural dialogue is important for ensuring stability and internal security, particularly as there is a growing Muslim population in the EU. He had suggested earlier this year also that EU states should train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.
MORE ETHNIC MINORITY HEALTH-CARE WORKERS TO BE HIRED
A growing number of old-age home residents will be of ethnic minority background in the coming years. In order to prepare the sector for this, Flemish Welfare Minister Inge Vervotte wants nursing homes to hire more ethnic minority staff by 2010.
Flanders has 40,993 non-native Belgians over the age of 60. The Dutch and Italians are the largest group, followed by 2,800 Moroccans and 2,600 Turks. However, statistically the number of ethnic minority elderly is always underestimated.
Vervotte commissioned a study into the situation. She is against the idea of a nursing home exclusively for people of minority ethnic backgrounds, like the one in Amsterdam. She does, however, want the sector to start hiring more minority staff, who would be familiar with the language and culture of these non-native residents.
NATURALIZATION CEREMONY OBLIGATORY FOR NEW DUTCH CITIZENS
As of 1 January 2006, municipal authorities are obliged to organize special gatherings, so-called naturalization ceremonies, focusing on the meaning of Dutch nationality. A ceremony is to be organized each year, usually on August 24th, the date the Dutch Constitution came into force in 1815. Ceremonies may also be organized on other days.
Between 1 January and 1 October 2006, where a positive decision had been made regarding person's application for Dutch nationality by naturalization or by choice, they received an invitation to the ceremony from the municipal authorities. In this period, the applicants were not obliged to attend the ceremony. If they chose not to attend, it did not prevent them from obtaining Dutch nationality; they were simply informed of the decision by post.
However, since 1 October 2006 it has been made compulsory for an applicant to attend the ceremony. At present, if a person is invited for a ceremony, he or she will only become a Dutch national if they attend it. If they do not attend the ceremony, they will receive a new invitation for a future ceremony. This ceremony must be attended within one year of the decision being made; otherwise, they will not receive their Dutch nationality. Once the deadline has expired, a person will need to begin a new naturalization or option procedure if he or she still wishes to become a Dutch national.
Under very exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to be exempted from the requirement to attend. Minors (under sixteen years of age) will not be called upon to appear at the naturalization ceremony, but may choose to attend. The minor's parent or legal representative, however, will be called upon to appear, and will be obliged to attend. The minor in question will only become a Dutch national if his or her parent or legal representative is present at the ceremony.
NINETY PERCENT OF APPLICANTS SUCCESSFUL IN CIEA TESTS
About ninety percent of examinees pass the so-called Civic Integration examination, which is taken abroad, on their first try. Most candidates are aged between 26 and 35 (49 percent) followed by the 16-25 age group (31 percent), according to a Monitoring Report on the Civic Integration Examination Abroad submitted to the Lower House of Parliament by Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, partly acting on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Report covers the period between 15 March and 30 September 2006 when a total of 1,436 exams were taken. Most examinees were of Turkish (20 percent), Moroccan (19 percent) and Chinese (10 percent) nationality. The majority of them had an average educational level, followed by examinees with a high educational level. According to the figures, 90 percent of the candidates with an average educational level who sat the exam passed on the first attempt.
The exam is given at Dutch embassies in the examinee's country of origin via a telephone line that has a direct connection with a computer in the Netherlands. The idea behind the scheme is that new arrivals will more quickly integrate into Dutch society if they enter the country well prepared.
Source: The Dutch Ministry of Justice
A SHIFT IN INTEGRATION POLICY
A series of guidelines for the introduction of new immigrants into Swedish society has been recently presented by the government. Local councils that can offer jobs to newly arrived immigrants will be rewarded with money from state funds.
The aim of the scheme is to encourage councils with a healthy labour market - rather than those with a generous housing market - to take in more immigrants and refugees. In order to speed up the introduction of immigrants to the labour market, new arrivals will be encouraged to move to "those municipalities where the jobs are."
The government has set aside 600 million kronor ($84 million) in its new spring budget to help stimulate the reform. The money is to be used to encourage municipalities in need of labour to sign agreements surrounding the reception of immigrants. A further 400 million kronor has been earmarked for wage subsidies, which - in combination with funds from the government's "new start" job scheme - will be used to finance 80 percent of a person's wage.
To qualify for a grant, local councils must commit to organizing introductory discussions with new immigrants within the first week of their arrival. An agreement will then be reached as to how each individual can best approach the tasks of getting a job, learning Swedish and/or entering the education system.
Councils also have to ensure that their Swedish language courses pass muster, while at the same time keeping a close eye on attendance figures. Any immigrant found not to be learning Swedish or putting sufficient effort into seeking employment may have his or her benefits reduced or completely withdrawn.
ETHNIC MINORITIES MORE "BRITISH" THAN "ENGLISH"
The study recently published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) quotes research finding that 51 percent of ethnic minority Britons (Asians and blacks) describe themselves as British, compared with 29 percent of whites.
By contrast, 52 percent of whites describe themselves as primarily belonging to one of the United Kingdom's four constituent nations, compared with just 11 percent of blacks and Asians.
The report suggests that, while Englishness and Scottishness are seen by minority groups as primarily ethnic terms, Britain, its flag and institutions are perceived as more neutral.
The IPPR argues that the contrast is greatest in England and points to "a growing divide between those who prefer English to British national identity". Sir Bernard Crick, an educational expert who helped the government devise the citizenship curriculum, said he agreed with the findings. According to him, immigrants perceive "Britishness" as a legal and political structure, which does not threaten their own culture. "When the immigrant says, I am British, he is not saying he wants to be English or Scottish or Welsh", Crick argues. He also added that blacks and Asians preferred the term British because it can be combined with their own ethnic or racial origins to form terms such as British Pakistani or British black.
The study charts a steady decline in the sense of Britishness. In 1996, 52 percent of respondents in a poll said they saw themselves primarily as British. By 2005, this had fallen to just 44 percent. It is not only the pull of Scottish and Welsh devolution that has damaged British feeling. The study says many ethnic minority Britons, rather than draw their identity from the Union Jack, have chosen religion. It points to "the growing importance of religion and religious identity to younger British Muslims. This greater sense of Islamic identity and popularity of related cultural attitudes is likely to be a sign of resistance to the current political climate." The question of how to keep the United Kingdom together has made Britishness an acute political issue.
NEW POINTS-BASED SYSTEM FOR MIGRATION
On 18 April 2007, the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, unveiled the timetable for introducing the UK's tough new Australian-style points-based system for migration.
The new scheme, which will start from early 2008, will enable the British Government to manage migration to the UK more effectively, tackle abuse and attract the most talented workers into the UK economy.
The announcement came as Mr Byrne was given a tour of Australia's border controls by Australian Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, after attending the fourth annual Four Country Conference on Immigration hosted by the Australian Government, which was also attended by representatives from the United States and Canada.
Britain's new simplified, secure system for managing migration will work alongside measures designed to secure the UK's borders. The new system will allow migrants to come to the UK under one of five tiers replacing more than 80 existing routes of entry:
A system of sponsorship by employers and educational institutions to ensure compliance with the immigration rules is also being introduced as part of the new system at the beginning of next year.
Controlling migration to the UK through a new simplified, secure, system fits alongside ongoing activity to tighten up the UK's immigration controls. This includes implementing new technology to record simply and effectively details of passengers intending to enter or leave the UK before they begin their journey, and the strengthening of the UK's visa system.
NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR LONG-STAY APPLICANTS
From 2 April 2007 all applicants for indefinite leave to remain in the UK will need to provide evidence that they have passed either the Life in the UK test or ESOL test (English for Speakers of Other Languages), which includes citizenship materials.
The new requirement is being introduced by the Government to encourage people to learn English and to find out about structures, laws, democratic processes and traditions in the UK. This will help people to take part in society and become full and active citizens.
Effective integration of people who wish to settle in the UK, including embracing a common language and understanding of life in the UK, is important to continued good race relations and community cohesion and is a central part of the Government's managed migration policy which will ultimately benefit the society and economy.
FRONTEX INTERVENTION HAS DECREASED IMMIGRANT NUMBERS
Following tightened naval patrols, the number of migrants coming to the Spanish Canary Islands has halved compared to this time last year. The number of boat-borne migrants arriving on the Canary Islands has dropped by 60 percent, to 1,525 in the first three months of this year from 3,914 during the same period last year.
The EU's border agency, Frontex, is being credited with the drop in figures. In February, it started an ocean patrol operation called 'Hera III' under which a total of 1,167 would-be migrants have been diverted back to the West African coast. Frontex, which has been up and running since October 2005 and launched its first sea patrols last August, says the aim of operations like Hera III is "to stop migrants from leaving the shores on the long sea journey and thus to reduce the danger of loss of human lives". As reported before, African migrants look to the Canary Islands as the first point of access to the European Union, with thousands in recent years trying to make the journey across the open sea to reach the point where they think they can have a chance of a better life.
In the second half of 2006, some 3,000 people per month were arriving on the islands and countless more perished on the way. Last year was seen as a crisis point in the immigration issue for the EU, with Spain, Italy and the island of Malta - as the southern most points of the bloc - regularly bringing the matter up at the highest political level in the EU and saying they could not cope alone. However, their calls for help revealed a lack of solidarity between member states with several governments reluctant to help kit out the poorly equipped Frontex agency with boats and planes.
Nevertheless, EU interior ministers have just recently agreed on setting up a rapid deployment force of border guards that would assist countries facing an immigration emergency. The rapid border intervention teams – operational under Frontex - are foreseen to be a pool of some 450 national experts, made available at short notice (within five working days) to any member state whose borders are under "urgent and exceptional" strain by illegal migration. The concept of special EU teams did already receive backing, on April 11th, from the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. The parliament is expected to give its final blessing soon.
CHANGES IN FOREIGN RESIDENTS' RIGHTS IN GERMANY
Chancellor Merkel's government agreed Wednesday to several changes in the way the country deals with foreigners, including giving more rights to refugees who have lived in Germany for years without official status.
These "tolerated" refugees in Germany are those who have not been given asylum status but who cannot be sent back to the country of origin for humanitarian reasons. Under the new agreement, such long-term foreigners in Germany have been given the opportunity to find a job, up to the end of 2009.
"It creates a new staring point for affected people who want to live here in Germany," Christian Democratic Union migration expert Maria Böhmer told Deutschlandfunk radio, adding that joining the workforce would aid foreigners' integration. Sebastian Edathy, Social Democratic Party member and head of the Bundestag's interior committee, told RBB-Inforadio that the compromise was "sensible and humane" because "the long-time tolerated are [no longer] required to live off welfare but instead are allowed to work."
There are currently about 180,000 people in Germany, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, with "tolerated" status, following denial of their applications for asylum. Edathy said it would be difficult to estimate how many of them would be able to find jobs in Germany.
Additionally, the compromise requires that spouses who migrate to Germany be at least 18 years old and have basic German language skills. The deal also threatens unspecified sanctions for foreigners who refuse to participate in language and integration courses.
An emphasis on language proficiency in the nearly 500-page bill, which requires parliamentary approval before becoming law, was a crucial point for Hans-Peter Uhl, the Christian conservatives' interior affairs expert.
He said that being able to converse in German was "the least that can be expected of someone who wants to move the center of his life to Germany." The government also called for Germans to be open to the immigrants living around them.
"In addition to what the state is doing and the honest willingness of migrants to work, we also need support from the general population to interact with the people coming to us in a open and tolerant manner," German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wrote in an op-ed for Die Zeit newspaper.
Co-leader of the opposition Greens party, Claudia Roth, however, had harsh words for the draft, calling it the result of a "competition in paltriness" that would only benefit those "who proved economically useful", while those truly in need of protection would get no help at all.
Organizations representing foreigners in Germany also expressed their unhappiness about the deal in an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Signed by Germany's Protestant and Catholic churches as well as Amnesty International and Pro Aysl, the letter was critical of the language requirement, saying that for foreigners living in rural areas the courses were difficult to attend and that requiring language skills for spouses was discriminatory.
A spokeswoman for the DGB Trade Union Federation said the new regulations were "not a solution to better integration, but deal only with old cases, which benefit only a minority."
HELP FOR IMMIGRANT ASSIMILATION
Spain plans to invest 2 billion EUR in measures to help immigrants feel they are "part of Spain". According to Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, if the inequality between Spaniards and immigrants is reduced to a minimum, living together will be much easier.
Defending the idea of "legal, orderly" immigration, she said that immigration to Spain had risen from 900,000 in 2000 to 3 million in 2007, which would indicate that foreign workers make up about six percent of the population. Out of all foreign-born residents, Moroccans represent the largest single group in Spain, followed by Ecuadorians.
The plan, which runs up to the year 2010, is divided into 12 areas: reception, education, jobs, homes, social services, health, infancy and childhood, women, equal treatment, participation, raising awareness and co-development.
Forty percent of the funding will go to education and 20 percent to immigrant reception, while 11 percent of the total is for employment. The main objectives are to guarantee the full exercise of the immigrants' civil, social, economic, cultural and political rights and to adjust public policies to meet the needs that come with immigration.
The same plan seeks to make sure that public services do not deteriorate, either for the immigrants or for native Spaniards, since the latter should not have to suffer in this respect because of workers coming in from other countries.
The main opposition party, the conservative Popular Party (PP), has criticized the socialist Government's immigration policy, stating that immigration problems have worsened over the years as a result of government measures. Above all, PP official Ana Pastor criticized at the massive legalization of foreigners who came to Spain illegally.
For example, the three-month amnesty process launched in February 2005 resulted in the legalization of 573,270 illegal immigrants. Applicants were required to have lived in Spain for at least six consecutive months prior to the start of the program.
Some of Spain's neighbors, including France, criticized the breadth of the amnesty, expressing concern that the absence of border controls throughout most of the now-27-member European Union member nations would allow some of those "regularized" in the Iberian nation to spill over into other countries.
CHILDREN OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO BE PERMITTED STATE EDUCATION?
According to an impending amendment to the School Act, the children of foreigners who stay in the Czech Republic illegally should soon have a chance to attend Czech schools without problems.
At present, only foreigners with a permanent residence permit or with long-term or short-term visas, asylum seekers and persons guaranteed temporary protection have the right to education in the Czech Republic. Moreover, schools are obliged to demand that children submit evidence of their legal residence in the Republic.
Organizations helping refugees have pointed out that this law prevents some foreign children from attending schools and thereby violates their right to education.
Pavla Burdova-Hradecna, spokesman for an advisory center for refugees, has stated on this issue that children's interests should come before the State's interest in combating illegal migration. Activists also point out that any currently illegal immigrants may later be granted a residence permit, and Czech education would then help their children integrate into Czech society.
"WORD OF ISLAM" TO BE BROADAST BY PUBLIC STATION
Suedwestrundfunk (Southern German Radio), a public broadcaster, has announced that it will publish weekly Islamic sermons in German for a Muslim audience on the Internet.
The SWR has already engaged Aiman Mazyek, Secretary-General of the German Council of Muslims, and Bekir Alboga of the Ditib Turkish Islamic Union of Religious Centers, as writers. There are still vacancies for two Muslim women to write the "Word of Islam" addresses. The four will take turns to write personal reflections about behavior or events from a Muslim perspective.
SWR is the first German broadcaster to issue weekly Islamic messages, similar to existing televised talks for Christians. The first SWR online address will appear on 20 April 2007.
A national public broadcaster, ZDF, aims to release a weekly Islamic message on the Internet starting in the summer.
Both broadcasters say they will not put the messages on television yet, but only publish the texts online. They say they have an obligation to reflect the thinking of the 3.5 million Muslims living in Germany.
Source: Expatica News, March 26, 2007
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN BORN IN GREECE?
Hundreds of demonstrators marched through central Athens on 10 February 2007, demanding equal rights and citizenship for immigrant children born in Greece.
Immigrant groups said that current laws make it very difficult for immigrants to live and work legally in the country. Holding up banners reading 'No to racism' and 'I was born here,' more than 600 immigrants called for an end to what they described as racial discrimination and asked for citizenship to be granted to children born in Greece.
IMMIGRANTS REFUSED ID CARDS
New rules introduced in January 2007 by Svensk Kassaservice, an agency responsible for issuing ID cards, mean immigrants with the right to live and work in Sweden are being barred from receiving Swedish ID cards.
Svensk Kassaservice asserts that the increasing number of fraudulent applications requires a stricter policy when issuing ID cards. That means that only people with the new Swedish passports; other forms of recognized Swedish ID; or applicants vouched for by a close family member will be issued IDs.
According to its new rules, anyone who is not a Swedish citizen or married to a Swedish citizen will be refused ID – despite being legal Swedish residents with the papers to prove it. The problem is also affecting thousands of long-standing residents of the country who have failed to renew existing ID cards. Whilst Svensk Kassaservice accepts ID cards up to six months out of date from those trying to renew, people who have left it longer will end up in the same predicament as new arrivals.
Source: The Local, February 15, 2007
EU OPENS TALKS ON LEGAL IMMIGRATION
With both legal and illegal migration becoming Europe's Gordic knot, moves are under way to promote lawful routes to the EU labor market, including the possible introduction of a European version of the US green card and sanctions for companies who hire illegal immigrants.
In September, the European Commission will introduce a piece of legislation on the admission of third-country highly-skilled workers, which should propose a simplification of the current administrative burden on an applicant and, potentially, introduce a European version of the US green card. The so-called "EU blue card" would grant a highly qualified worker the chance to seek a job in any EU state, although the exact details are still unknown. EU officials have also said that the bloc must try to attract particularly well-trained migrants to compensate for Europe's falling birth rates and ageing population.
Just recently, the EU opened its first job center in the African state of Mali, with others planned for Senegal and Mauritania. This move is expected to bring seasonal farm, construction and tourism workers to Europe, among others, whilst promoting legal ways to seek a job. So far, only Spain and France have offered job quotas for Mali workers linked to the EU office, as participation is voluntary. Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands are also considering this kind of offer. However, the job center received a cold reaction from some NGOs, as they think that such centers are contradictory to the EU's development policies.
Meanwhile, Europe's core dilemma remains as how to fulfill its economic need for workers, while decreasing the pressures from illegal migration. Seven million illegal immigrants are believed to be in the EU territory, with an additional 500,000 arriving each year. Moreover, 87 percent of those who enter the continent are undereducated: the majority of highly skilled illegal immigrants seek jobs in the US and Canada.
In May, Brussels is set to table a proposal to sanction companies that hire illegal immigrants. Employers involved in such activities could face financial penalties, such as refunding the social welfare system for lost revenue or paying the immigrant's normal back salary. Should the illegal immigrant have to be expelled, the employer would be obliged to pay the costs of sending him home.
These moves towards legal migration are seen as a way to curb the influx of illegal immigrants into the bloc. The issue has climbed to the top of the EU agenda after southern European nations, in particular Spain and Italy; saw mass arrivals of illegal immigrants on their coasts last year.
EU ministers will also be asked to strengthen the bloc's border watchdog Frontex by boosting its funding, resources and powers. Frontex, responsible for protecting Europe against illegal migrants, needs aircraft, helicopters, vessels and other equipment for marine operations by no later then April, when a new wave of migrants is expected to hit EU southern and south-eastern borders (the Canary Islands, Lampedusa, Malta) due to favorable weather conditions.
Protecting the bloc's external borders and combating illegal immigration seems set to remain the EU's top priority.
CHANGES TO NON-CITIZEN REGULATIONS
The Council of the European Union has approved the draft amendments to the regulations of the EU visa regime, which stipulate granting non-citizens of Latvia and Estonia rights to travel without visas within the Union. The regulations will apply to all the EU countries, Norway and Iceland, but exclude the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The German government has reached a compromise on how to deal with some 200,000 foreigners whose applications for asylum have been turned down, but who are not deported for humanitarian reasons.
The new legislation will make the granting of resident status dependent on the number of years the applicant has been in Germany. Aside from any other requirements, individuals can receive a two-year residence permit where they have lived there for at least eight years, or for six years if they have children. During those two years they must prove that they can find gainful employment and support themselves. Should they fail to do so, they will lose their residence permit and fall back to tolerated status.
WOMENS SUPPORT PROGRAMS
Germany offers various programs for immigrants, many of which are specifically defined for women who want to enter the job market. Milva, a project offered by the community college in Monchengladbach, is tailored to meet the needs of women who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of applying for a job in Germany or do not yet speak the language well enough to find their way around the job market. The project helps female immigrants shape their careers for working in Germany - from deciding on the career, through training and improving language skills, to writing applications.
CITIZENSHIP ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN
Whilst the number of foreigners taking on citizenship has fallen across most of Germany in the last half decade, in Berlin the number of new citizens has started to rise again since 2005, due to a citizenship advertising campaign. In one example from the campaign, Funda Gumusdag, a girl of Turkish origin, gives extra classes twice a week to students with immigrant backgrounds, whilst studying to be a teacher and involving herself in local politics. She also appears on posters all over Berlin, together with 14 other non-native Germans, trying to convince foreign youngsters of the advantages of taking up German citizenship.
The campaign has two aims. Whilst Berlin wants to increase the number of young people becoming German citizens, they want also to encourage a debate on the issue of what it means to be German: issues of identity are very important for young people.
In other German states it takes two years for applicants to be granted citizenship; in Berlin all applications have to be judged within six months. Information on the requirements for naturalization, such as minimum age and German language skills, are publicized through radio and newspaper advertisements or school visits.
EU MIGRATION POLICY PROPOSALS
French and German Interior Ministers have proposed a new EU migration policy for the European Union's six largest countries. The plan would allow migrants from non-EU countries to work in the EU for a limited time. The proposal aims to create an EU asylum Authority and to open up its labor market to temporary guest workers. Under the proposal, workers from poor countries could live in EU countries for three to four years, transfer money to their home countries and return with newly acquired skills, Schauble said. The idea of such circular migration originates with the United Nations and aims to combine migration with development policy.
A handbook entitled Diversity and equal opportunities with an accompanying film Understanding can heal have been produced by the Swiss Hospital Association and the Federal Health Office to help Swiss hospitals communicate better with immigrants and deal with their specific needs.
Training from these publications should give staff the necessary information to deal with patients from a variety of social and linguistic backgrounds and religions, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and stress.
Official Language Research
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