“Rutte III” promises restrictive changes to Dutch asylum system

A record 209 days after their parliamentary elections, four Dutch parties have formed a coalition for a majority government that will lead by a single seat. Mark Rutte‘s center-right VVD, Democrats D66, Christian Democrats CDA, and the conservative Christian Union (CU) have hammered out a fragile accord that will lead the Netherlands into the so-called “Rutte III” era. Coalition talks initially included the environmental leftists Groenlinks, but talks broke down over a single issue: migration.

Now, thanks to a leaked version of the coalition agreement from AD.NL, we are able to see the consensus reached by the parties on migration and gain some insight into why Groenlinks may have found it so problematic. (Refresh your memory on the parties’ stances here.)

The coalition agreement sets out that the parties want to maintain a “recognizable Netherlands” that preserves and promotes Dutch traditions and customs. At the same time, the parties agree to introduce new limits and restrictions on immigration and asylum, and to pursue “a much stricter approach to Jihadism.” What will this look like in practice? Here are some highlights, found in the section about migration, asylum and integration (pages 50-55).

Make it more difficult for people who receive asylum to stay in the Netherlands

The parties would limit the number of times an applicant can apply for asylum or appeal a rejected asylum claim. Succesful applicants would be entitled to stay three, instead of the previous five years. After three years, authorities would seek to determine whether it would be possible for the person to return to the country they fled, and if not the person would be able to receive an additional two years protection. At five years, they would be eligible for an indefinite residence permit. By inserting a new hurdle at the three year mark, the government can possibly prevent more people who receive asylum from making it to a more permanent form of residency.

A two-track procedure for asylum claims

The agreement proposes that people seeking asylum from the Netherlands be divided into two groups during an initial evaluation. People who appear to have a good chance of receiving asylum would go to a smaller facility in the municipality they would eventually be housed in, and start right away on language classes. People who are deemed to have less chance will be housed in larger facilities, where their rejection will lead to immediate deportation.

Limit access to welfare for people seeking asylum and make integration mandatory

In order to ensure that people become “self-sufficient,” the agreement proposes that funds for healthcare, rent or welfare are no longer distributed directly to people who receive asylum themselves, but instead to the municipalities who shelter them to dole out, at least for the first two years. Following a test period, people may be able to enter the labour market exit this scenario.

People receiving protecting are expected to start language classes on day 1 and to eventually reach level B2 (formerly A2), and the state will pay for the courses. “Integration is a duty,” the parties write, and people who fail to integrate may lose their immigration status or fail to get a better status or more permanent residency. Aside from learning the Dutch language, integration also means respecting laws and equality, as well as finding employment.

Tougher crackdown on “jihadism”

An additional 13 million euros is allocated to counter-terrorism activities, especially, the agreement notes, for combatting “hate preachers.” The parties propose that new legislation is drafted to ensure that returnees to the Netherlands from conflict zones can be detained upon arrival to be investigated for their possible participation in acts of terrorism. In addition, the parties want more careful monitoring of asylum seekers to mark individuals as possible war criminals.

A shift to the right

If the leaked version becomes the official coalition agreement, it will clearly represent a shift to the right on migration policies in the Netherlands. VVD did not get its way on everything – for instance, they called for refugees to finance their own mandatory language classes- but in many ways this set of new policies is a win for those who oppose migration. It is clear that for Groenlinks this entire program was a no-go. They had called for equality between Dutch and asylum seekers on the job market, the right to state assistance for rejected asylum seekers, and other less restrictive policies. Left democrats D66 may have opposed some many of these changes, but had called during their campaign for smaller numbers of asylum seekers in order to focus on integration- and smaller numbers may well be the result of these policies once enacted.

 


Sources and Further Reading
Green Light for Coalition, (in Dutch), De Telegraaf , Oct. 2017
“Confidence in the Future” Governing Agreement [PDF] [in Dutch], Leaked by Ad.nl Oct. 2017
Dutch Coalition Agreement 2017- Migration & Integration (EN) [PDF] Poorly translated version of Migration Section
Header Image: Mark Rutte by Arno Mikkor on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2kMyfib (CC BY 2.0)
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Austrian Elections: Where do the parties stand on asylum, immigration and integration?

By Klaudia Wegschaider

In a few days, on October 15, Austria will elect its new parliament. And unlike in the recent German election, it is uncertain who will be the next Chancellor and which parties will form the future governing coalition. Currently, Austria is headed by a coalition between the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party. In the run-up to the election, however, disputes between these two parties have risen due to an imbroglio involving a well-known negative campaign manager and several leaked documents. The likelihood of another coalition between the two parties thus appears to be decreasing. Instead, the populist Freedom Party may gain further relevance after this election.

In the meantime, it is worth taking a look at what the party manifestos say on migration, integration and asylum. Similar to many other countries, migration has been one of the key topics in the public debates in the run-up to the election.

Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreich, SPÖ)

Integration requires a limit on migration

Here’s the link to the SPÖ manifesto.

With a page count of more than 200, this is the second longest manifesto. Relevant for this post are two chapters — on integration and on migration.

The chapter on integration starts off by stating that the number of refugee arrivals has to be “reduced to a level that makes integration possible.” To specify this level, the chapter references the annual limit on refugee arrivals that the Austrian government passed since 2015 (37.500 per year). Integration – as envisioned by this manifesto – is a combination of rights and duties. Among those duties is the mandatory integration year for asylum seekers and refugees (Integrationsjahr). During this year, participants receive integration counselling, qualification checks, language and skills training, job application support, and more.

The manifesto then turns to several targeted approaches to foster integration. For example, the party stresses the importance of special programmes for asylum seekers and refugees who are no longer of regular school-age. Apart from proposing new programmes, the manifesto also draws attention to existing initiatives in need of more support – such as programmes aimed at preventing radicalisation as well as all forms of extremism.

The chapter on migration carries the title “migration with a sense of proportion” and the sub-heading reads “humanitarian, solidary, consequent.” After outlining the current challenges, the manifesto briefly delves into seven steps: (1) A clear plan for a cooperation with West African countries is needed. (2) The EU should invest in a Marshall-Plan for North Africa to strengthen local development. (3) The EU needs to protect its external borders. (4)  A joint European asylum system ought to be developed. (5) Information campaigns need to reach out to migrants in countries of origin and transit. (6) Refugees whose claims are granted should then be relocated within the EU. (7) Those whose claims are rejected need to return to their countries of origin. To this end, further return agreements at the EU level are needed. The manifesto calls for a new position at the EU level to speed up this negotiation process.

Summary of main positions:

  • Asylum arrivals have to be reduced to a level that makes integration possible
  • Faster asylum procedures
  • Special programmes for asylum seekers and refugees who are older than regular school-age
  • General reform of the EU asylum system needed
  • Marshall-Plan for North Africa
  • Need for more return agreements between the EU and countries of origin

People’s Party (Liste Sebastian Kurz, die neue Volkspartei, ÖVP)

Promising to halt illegal migration

The ÖVP manifesto was released in three parts. Here’s are the links to part one, part two, and part three.

This three-part manifesto is by far the longest. The first mention of the word migration is on page 46 and talks of rising social costs due to illegal migration. The manifesto then states that a change in migration policy could in the long-term save Austria up to 1.5 billion euros (a time frame is not mentioned).

One chapter elaborates on the importance of development aid to ease the migration pressure. The manifesto promises to almost double the budget of the Austrian Development Agency to 155 million euros by 2021. However, if a country of origin is not cooperative in facilitating return, then development aid would be cut.

The second part of the manifesto takes a closer look at integration. Children whose German skills are deemed insufficient ought to have access to and take special German classes. In addition, more teachers with a so-called “migration background” are needed to offer further support for those children.

The final part promises a “return to the top” by halting “illegal migration.” Those who are rescued at sea, for example, are to be brought to “rescue centers” outside of Europe. Those who reach Europe and are in need of protection are to be brought to “protection centers” outside the territory of the European Union.

Parallel to that, the manifesto proposes two legal pathways: First, some of the most vulnerable are to be resettled to Austria from refugee camps abroad. This ought to happen in close cooperation with UNHCR, IOM and the European Asylum Support Office. Second, the existing points system ought to be improved so that skilled workers needed by the Austrian labour market have the chance to immigrate.

Summary of main positions:

  • Increase spending on development and cut aid transfers for countries that do not facilitate return of rejected asylum seekers
  • Faster asylum procedures
  • German language support for children
  • Halt to illegal migration
  • Demand-based immigration of skilled workers

Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ)

Rejecting all forms of migration

Here’s the link to the FPÖ manifesto.

The Freedom Party places the principle of fairness at the center of its campaign. Throughout its manifesto, the party speaks of a “fairness crisis” and implies a division between “us” and “them.” For example, a brief look at the table of contents shows that each of the 25 sections in the manifesto starts with the pronoun “our.” The emphasis on the pronoun “our” is lost in translation, but the headings are nonetheless telling: “1. Protecting our borders — Austria is not a country of immigration.” “2. Protecting our sovereignty and self-determination.” “Guarding our culture, values and traditions” … etc.

The central FPÖ demand is unequivocal: “For the time being, the FPÖ rejects all forms of immigration due to the migration waves in the recent past.” In the following sentence, the party acknowledges the right to asylum of all people who are persecuted due to their race, religion, or political beliefs. However, this right to asylum in Austria is only granted if the claimant did not reach Austria by traveling through a safe third country (note: Austria is a landlocked country and surrounded by safe third countries). In addition, the FPÖ promises to eliminate all financial incentives for claiming asylum in Austria — by cutting social spending and by switching to non-cash benefits.

The manifesto has much less to say on integration. There appears to be no section that addresses the challenge of integration explicitly. Instead, the following calls are included in the manifesto: Chapter 1 clearly states the FPÖ does not see Islam as a part of Austria. Chapter 8 calls for a restrictive limit on the proportion of foreign students in school in order “not to jeopardise the success of the Austrian children.”

Summary of main positions:

  • Rejection of all forms of immigration
  • Asylum only for those who did not arrive through a safe third country
  • Rejection of Islam as a part of Austria
  • Replacing monetary support with benefits in kind (for asylum seekers)
  • Limits on the proportion of foreign students in schools

Greens (Die Grünen)

Solutions at the EU level

Here’s the link to the manifesto of the Green Party.

The manifesto of the Green Party counts 64 pages and is filled with bare text, no pictures. This makes the manifest of the Greens stand out at first sight because all other parties extensively rely on visual material in their manifestos.

Migration features several times in the manifesto and often in relation to the European Union. Indeed, one of the central positions is that “actions taken by single states are not real solutions.” Thus, the European Union “requires a joint and harmonised immigration system.”

Just what exactly would this look like? The Greens focus on creating safe and legal pathways. For those who seek to study or work in Austria, there should be a system in place that selects candidates based on qualifications, language skills, age as well as additional integration factors. For those in need of protection, the Greens advocate for the reintroduction of the Botschaftsasyl, i.e. the possibility to claim asylum at embassies of EU member states. For asylum seekers that have already reached Europe, the Greens propose that they first stay at a joint initial reception center (Erstaufnahmezentrum) before being relocated to one of the 28 member states.

Integration is seen as “a key for social cohesion.” The manifesto goes on to mention the importance of language courses, the recognition of qualifications, education as well as coordination between the different levels of government. Among the more detailed policy proposals are the introduction of “Austria-for-Newcomers”-courses as well as initiatives on the equality between men and women, both aimed for refugees.

In addition, the Greens seek to enhance participation options for non-citizens. For example, the Greens call for the right to vote at the local level not only for EU citizens (which already exists), but also for third country nationals (after an undefined length of stay). At the same time, the Greens stress the importance of anti-racism initiatives and acknowledge the work by volunteers who stand up for refugees.

Summary of main positions:

  • Criteria-based selection system for those seeking to study or work in Austria
  • Reintroduction of the option of filing an asylum claim abroad at embassies
  • Joint initial reception centres for asylum seekers that arrived on EU territory
  • Relocation of refugees within the European Union among all 28 member states
  • Speedy and affordable access to language courses
  • Passing of a law that would ease the recognition of qualifications
  • Introduction of the right to vote for third country nationals at the local level (after several years of living in Austria)

NEOS 

Searching for a coherent policy approach

Here’s the link to the manifesto of the Neos.

The NEOS manifesto sees solutions neither in “left-wing dreams” nor in “right-wing hatred.” It then goes on to list a few specific measures. First, it promises a more coherent approach to integration. To achieve this, the party envisions a new department focussed on integration. Its responsibilities would span from kindergarten to labour market entry.

Second, the manifesto calls for faster and more efficient asylum procedures. To this end, they set a time frame of 180 days for a decision on an individual’s asylum case. Persons fleeing from war immediately ought to have the chance to apply for subsidiary protection — a status valid for a certain time. (Instead of first having their application for refugee status denied and then being considered for subsidiary status.) Those applying for asylum would have the duty to reside in their assigned town or city for as long as they are dependent on social spending (Residenzpflicht).

While a positive asylum decision ought to come with support for the integration process, a negative decision is grounds for immediate deportation. Therefore, NEOS seek to negotiate binding return agreements with the relevant countries of origin. In exchange, these countries would see their development aid significantly increased.

In the European context, the party reaffirms the importance of the free movement of people for EU citizens. At the same time, the manifesto states that countries unwilling to take part in the “alliance of responsibility” with regard to refugee migration no longer ought to reap the benefits of the Schengen area.

Summary of main positions:

  • Found a department dedicated to integration, developing solutions from kindergarten age to entry to the labour market
  • Faster and more efficient asylum procedures
  • Option to immediately apply for subsidiary protection
  • Binding return agreements with countries of origin
  • Requirement for asylum seekers to live in their assigned town
  • Benefits of Schengen area only for those who share responsibility within the EU

A note on the parties covered: This post only covers five of the 16 parties standing for election on 15 October 2017. Selected were only those parties that are already represented in the parliament. The order is based on the result of the last national election in 2013. Omissions of relevant sections and simplifications are possible, but not intended. For a complete picture, please see the linked manifestos.


*About the author: Klaudia Wegschaider graduated with an MSc in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, where she focused on the intersection of migration and democracy. She now works for an independent German foundation and volunteers for the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration. Klaudia is not affiliated with any political party.


Sources and further reading:
SPÖ Consultant Silberstein organized a right-wing Facebook page [in German], Profil, Sept. 2017
Austria’s Election Has Been Upended Over A Shady Meme-Posting Facebook Page, Buzzfeed, Oct. 2017
Campaign Platforms [all in German]
SPÖ: Plan for Austria: The Program for prosperity, security and good mood
ÖVP: Part 1: New Fairness and ResponsibilityPart 2: Awakening and prosperityPart 3: Order and Safety
FPÖ: Austrians Deserve Fairness
Die Grünen: This is Green
NEOS: The future manifesto for a new Austria 
Header Image: Austrian Parliament via SPÖ-Parlamentsklub  on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2gC1mQA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

 

 

German Elections: Where do the parties stand on asylum, immigration and integration?

Germany’s Bundestag elections are quickly approaching and while many are presenting the outcome as a foregone win for the indefatigable Angela Merkel of the CDU, with nearly half of voters undecided it’s still possible that there are some surprises in store. The only thing that’s for sure? Hardly anyone has read through all the long and jargon-packed campaign platforms that parties have published to present their vision for their future.

Hardly anyone- except us! As usual, Migration Voter presents the run down, straight from the party platforms, of what parties are promising to change or keep the same in the areas of immigration, asylum and integration. We’ll delve in deeper to certain topics over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, we present here an overview of the specific policies proposed by the big six parties. You may think you already know where they stand- prepare to be surprised, as we were.

CDU/ CSU: 2015 won’t be repeated

Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands) and Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union)

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Angela Merkel and Joachim Herrmann – Image via Markus Spiske on Flickr (http://bit.ly/2xAPlll) CC by 2.0

Main Proposals:

  • Prevent a repeat of 2015 by reaching deals with third countries to stop people seeking asylum from entering Europe, using the EU-Turkey deal as an example
  • Support a new immigration act that will allow qualified workers with a job contract to migrate to Germany under certain conditions
  • Strengthen external EU borders by providing additional support for external border agency Frontex, and continue to allow internal EU borders until a common EU asylum system has been defined
  • Oppose dual citizenship

There is surprisingly little in the way of direct policy proposals related to refugees and immigrants in the CDU and CSU’s joint platform. In a way that makes sense, since they have their name on most current policies. On the other hand, the program refers in many places to areas of dissatisfaction with Germany’s migration experience, offering reassuring statements that stop short of concrete policy proposals.

The CDU/CSU makes clear in their program that the refugee experience of 2015 will in no way be repeated– important, since the CDU’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was at the helm. To prevent a repeat, they pledge to keep the number of refugees “permanently low” and are in favor of Europe concluding further treaties with third countries to prevent migration across the Mediterranean- using the model of the EU-Turkey deal. They would also declare North African countries Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria safe countries of origin to enable faster returns of people from those countries. At the same time, they propose a “Marshall Plan” for Africa, an interesting idea that deserves more detail.

They briefly touch on a possible reform to the immigration law to make it possible for people with job offers to migrate to Germany (“Skilled Workers Immigration Act” ). This idea is trendy among other parties as well, but CDU/CSU fails to elaborate further on what such a policy would look like.

“Whatever their background, every single person in Germany is expected to abide by our laws. There will be no exceptions in this respect. Integration is beneficial to both sides and prevents the emergence of parallel societies.”

Their other mentions of immigrants are normative but lack concrete policy recommendations to back them up. For instance, they write that they expect all people in Germany to follow the Consitution, regardless of whether they have “migration background”. They want to prevent the emergence of “parallel societies” and multiculturalism, preferring instead German leading culture (Leitkultur) and regional or local cultures. . The platform fails to explain what German leading culture is. The reference to the preservation of regional or local cultures leaves the reader slightly confused. They think everyone should speak German, and respect the existence of Israel. It’s unclear, however, how such statements translate into policies- aside from a mention of opposition to dual citizenship.

In short, the CDU has kept it vague on the issue of immigration and asylum this time around, perhaps preferring to stand on their record, or hoping to change the subject to less controversial terrain.


SPD: European solidarity to handle migration

Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands)

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Martin Schulz- via SPD Saar on Flickr, (http://bit.ly/2esoYcI) (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Main Proposals:

  • Support sharing of asylum management across EU countries, i.e. people who arrive in the EU to seek asylum are distributed amongst member states. Countries who participate should receive financial support from the EU.
  • Create a new immigration law based on the Canadian model: a points-based system that will allow qualified individuals with a job offer to come to Germany if they meet certain requirements.
  • Permanent Residents should have the right to vote in local elections.

As we have previously discussed, the SPD’s program in relation to asylum and refugees is heavily tilted towards EU-wide solutions. This is a reasonable position given the EU-wide scale of the phenomenon but contains an inherent weakness for a domestic electoral platform in that it contains many positions which cannot be directly achieved by the party in power in Germany, only with the acquiescence of other EU member states.

That being said, the SPD also has some domestic policies in mind. First off, they would continue to support a “thorough and careful” asylum procedure. They would increase support for people who work in the field of integration and expand language courses, education, and training. They also support gender-appropriate housing solutions for women and the LGBT community.

The party says it prefers voluntary returns to forced deportations and wants to punish countries who do not accept people returning after their applications were rejected by, for instance, failing to issue visas to that country. In addition, they would end deportations to Afghanistan.

The SPD would propose a new employment-based immigration act for Germany, reflecting their view of a “modern, cosmopolitan Germany.” It would be modeled after the Canadian system, including a points system for qualified professionals who have a job offer.

Finally, the SPD would extend the right to vote to some non-German citizens: people with permanent residency would have the right to vote in local municipal elections. (Current German voting law dictates that EU citizens have the right to vote in local municipal elections, but only German citizens can vote on the state and national level. Thus, currently, all third-country nationals – any citizen of a country outside of the EU, are precluded from voting in any German election.)


FDP: Market-based Migration

Free DemocraticParty  (Freie Demokratische Partei)

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Christian Lindner- Image via Dirk Vorderstraße on Flickr http://bit.ly/2espl72 (CC by 2.0)

Main Proposals:

  • The right of asylum should be available only in individual cases of persecution. People fleeing from conflict should be able to receive temporary protection only until the conflict or war is over – then they must return to their countries of origin.
  • Support the creation of a humanitarian visa after the Swiss model that would offer a person under a concrete, life-endangering threat the chance to come to Germany and avoid a dangerous journey.
  • Germany needs a new point-based immigration system
  • Dual citizenship should be allowed, up to a point

The FDP’s liberal approach to migration reflects its market-based priorities, while still allowing for asylum in clearly defined and limited cases.

While it describes the right to asylum as unassailable and opposes an “upper limit” to the numbers of people able to receive asylum, the FDP seeks to limit asylum through several proposals. First, asylum for people fleeing war should be temporary and individuals who receive protection must return as soon as the conflict has ended. Second, they would create a humanitarian visa after the “Swiss model,” according to which individuals under acute, specific threat of death could apply for a visa to come to Germany to seek asylum. (However, even for Switzerland, the chance of obtaining such a visa is incredibly small.)

“We Free Democrats want Germany to have an immigration law and finally a modern citizenship right from a single source – just like other successful immigration countries.”

In terms of migration, the FDP also calls for a new immigration system, which would allocate points based on language skills, education, and qualifications to allow people to immigrate to Germany. Under their system, refugees who meet the same level of qualifications could also apply. In addition, the FDP calls for easing bureaucracy by simplifying recognition of foreign accreditation and degrees, and to make English a working language in administrative offices– both of which would theoretically make life easier for newcomers hoping to enter the job market. Another help is that the FDP would abolish priority entrance for Germans over non-Germans to jobs and housing.

Finally, the party has specific ideas about integration. They think people with refugee status should receive individualized, “modular” integration courses suited to their specific needs and stage in the process. In addition, they propose that dual citizenship should be available, upon request, to people meeting certain conditions or by birth, up until the grandchildren of the original holder.


Die LINKE: Right to Stay for All

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Sarah Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch. Image via Die Linke on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2ew384o (CC by 2.0)

Main Proposals:

  • A new ministry should be created for dealing with immigration and integration, and there should be a new ombudsman for refugee issues 
  • Anyone residing in Germany with an insecure residency status for over five years should get a right to remain
  •  End “Residenzpflicht”/residence requirement the obligation for people seeking asylum to remain in the same area for the duration of the asylum process (restriction on freedom of movement)
  • Oppose deportation in principle, and especially in certain circumstances (e.g, when a person would face a medical emergency, discrimination or homelessness in their home country)
  • Anyone born in Germany should have access to citizenship as well as the right to hold multiple nationalities
  • Permanent residents should be entitled to vote at all levels of election

Die LINKE (the Left) has a great deal to say about migration and asylum in their platform, and though much of it is simply supportive, as opposed to elaborating on a specific policy, we have drawn out some of the main policies.

Like the SPD and Greens, Die LINKE wants to fight the problems that cause people to flee their countries and offer safe pathways to Europe to prevent deaths at sea. They support fair trade and development of sending countries and reject the “dirty” Turkey deal and others proposed deals with third countries to prevent people from entering Europe.

“Good and affordable living space for everyone! To accommodate asylum seekers in emergency and mass shelters is inhuman, expensive and anti-integration.”

Unlike the other left-leaning parties however, Die LINKE unequivocally calls for an end to deportations and a right to stay (“Bleiberecht”) for all. Refugees should have access to the labor market after 3 months without limits on minimum wage, and should have access to decentralized social housing rather than mass shelters. Die LINKE would abolish the Residenzpflicht policy that restricts freedom of movement for people seeking asylum within a region or municipality. Those who have been in a precarious status for at most five years should receive a residence permit.

Die LINKE would also provide additional grounds to prevent deportation, such as gender-based grounds, allowance for people who were victims of right wing violence, and right to stay for people who would otherwise be forced into homelessness, medical emergency or discrimination in their home country. (This seems to be an explicit nod to Roma and Sinti from the Balkans, who have been subject to deportation in the past.) Die LINKE also supports establishing an ombudsman for refugee issues.

Die LINKE wants to abolish the current residence law and provide a path to legal residence and naturalization for all. People without legal residence would be granted residence and work permits, and people who have been legally residing in Germany for three years would be entitled to naturalization. In addition, all children born in Germany would be entitled to citizenship (and multiple citizenships), a model known as “birthright citizenship” (the US has such a policy.) This liberalization would also stretch to voting rights: Die LINKE supports voting rights for permanent residents at all levels of elections.

Another change they propose is to move the responsibility for migration and integration out of the Ministry of Interior and into a new federal agency. Under their plan, the federal government would also shoulder all costs associated with housing, healthcare and integration of refugees and migrants, to take financial pressure off of municipalities.

In addition, to ensure equal education for all, they would support an emergency training program for teachers, social workers, and language teachers.


AfD: (Some) Refugees Not Welcome

Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland)

AfD Bundesparteitag 23. April 2017 in Köln

Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland (image: Olaf Kosinsky / kosinsky.eu)

Main Proposals:

  • Make it easier to deport people who have committed even minor crimes, and harder to get citizenship
  • Secure German borders and enable migration only of qualified people as required, guard borders with “safety systems” including fences
  • Only offer asylum to those who can prove their identity
  • Ban family reunification and any special privileges for people from Turkey, ban dual citizenship
  • Restrict religious freedom for Muslims

In their election manifesto, the AfD prioritizes two key themes regarding immigration and asylum: first, the prevention of crimes and terrorism by non-Germans, and second, the necessity of maintaining a “recognizable” Germany by preventing migration of Africans and “Arab Muslims”.

“The goal of the AfD is self-preservation, not self-destruction of our country and people.”

In terms of crime, they are of the opinion that non-Germans are disproportionately responsible for crime and terror in Germany. They, therefore, propose new regulations making it easier to deport people for even minor crimes. In addition, they want to prevent people who have ever committed crimes from becoming German citizens by abolishing the right to citizenship. They also propose removing citizenship from those people who commit crimes within ten years of being naturalized. They would also denationalize German citizens with connection to “criminal clans”, even if this would leave the person stateless, in violation of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Germany has been a party to since 1977. (We discussed a similar proposal that Marine Le Pen made here).

The AfD frames their migration policy as an attempt to prevent a demographic inevitability. Noting that the populations of Africa and “Arab Muslims” are increasing while Europe suffers an aging population and declining birth rate, the platform suggests that the larger, poorer population of the Global South must inevitably migrate to the richer, more sparsely populated European countries, causing migration that will destabilize Germany and leave it “unrecognizable.” Thus, it is necessary to change migration policy as a means of “self-preservation.”

What they have in mind for this change is an array of restrictive or harsh policies towards immigration that at times contradict one another. For instance, they would secure the borders to be guarded by “safety systems” including fences but allow for migration of qualified workers as needed. Asylum would still be offered to those who can prove their identity using certain “legal and technical prerequisites” that they do not elaborate on. They propose that individuals seeking asylum are not brought to Europe in the first place but transferred to third countries “after the Australian model.” They also suggest a return to the 1949 German-law version of asylum (which ironically, other parties laud as liberal.)

Under migration, AfD also has the policy that “Islam does not belong to Germany” and calls for several policies which would restrict religious freedom, for instance, banning Islamic studies programs in German universities and banning burqas. However, these policies would apply to Germans and non-Germans alike, so it is unclear why they frame this as a migration issue.


Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen: Refugees and talented immigrants welcome

Union 90/ The Greens (BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN)

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Katrin Göring-Eckardt und Cem Özdemir, Image via gruenenrw on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2vChjA5 (CC BY SA-2.0)

Main Proposals:

  • Protect an absolute right to asylum and no returns to unsafe countries
  • Increase aid funding for foreign development and conflict prevention
  • Develop safe, legal routes for people seeking asylum to prevent deaths at sea
  • Acquisition of birthright citizenship for children born to at least one parent with a residence permit
  • Enable easier, less bureaucratic family reunification
  • Develop a “talent card” that enables qualified individuals to spend a year in Germany in order to look for employment

Although the Green party generally focuses on environmental and social justice issues, they appear to have spent a lot of time developing their proposals on migration and asylum and offer- whether or not you agree with them- one of the most completed plans for both.

The Green Refugee plan consists of four points. First, they aspire to address the root causes of migration and aim to increase development aid. Second, in order to prevent people risking their lives to flee, the Greens back solutions that will prevent people from taking dangerous routes to Europe, for example, a refugee resettlement program with cooperation from UNHCR, meaning individuals would have to obtain refugee status in their country of origin or third country prior to arriving in Germany. Another possible solution would be a humanitarian visa (like FDP suggested) to make it possible for people to legally travel to Europe to seek asylum. 

Third, fair and legal decisions on asylum applications must be made as quickly as possible. They say Germany’s administrative and municipal structure was not adequately prepared for the “humanitarian challenge” of 2015- yet they do not pose concrete ways to improve the situation.

And fourth, anyone who is able to stay must receive support in learning German, finding a job and an apartment- starting from day 1. In the case of those who cannot stay, the Greens support voluntary returns over deportations and absolutely oppose returning people to unsafe countries such as Afghanistan.

“The aging society and the skilled labor force show that Germany is dependent on immigration in the long term. However, the current law is too complicated and makes immigration more difficult.”

The Greens wants to update the immigration law via “The Green Immigration Act” to meet the demands of a country of immigration. They would introduce a “Talent card” (Talentkarte) which allows qualified professionals one year to search for work in Germany. A commission would determine how many cards are allocated, and which qualifications entitle one to a card, including German language skills, possession of insurance and other skills. They would also expand the number of student visas and make it easier to formally recognize foreign degrees and qualifications.

Finally, they would make family reunification easier and less bureaucratic, as they argue that a key to integration is feeling embedded in one’s family.


Sources and Further Reading
Bundestagwahl: Half of voters are undecided, Zeit Online, Aug. 23, 2017 [German]
All the 2017 party platforms in one place
For a Germany that is good to live in: Election Program for the CDU and CSU 2017, CDU [Deutsch, English summary, video version available]
It’s time for more justice: Election Program for the SPD 2017, SPD [Deutsch, video available]
A new way of thinking. FDP Election Program 2017, FDP [Deutsch, English summary available]
Humanitarian Visas, Swiss Refugee Council
Social. Just. Peace. For all. Die Linke Election Program 2017, Die Linke, [Deutsch,  summaries in English +12 other languages, video, GSL, Audio, Braille available.]
Program for Germany: AFD Election Program 2017, AFD, [Deutsch, Audio version available]
UN Convention on Reduction of Statelessness, OHCHR, 1961
The future is made of courage: Green Election Program 2017, Die Grüne, [Deutsch, Audio, GSL available]
Featured Image: German Bundestag by Lars Steffens on Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/2x4AsLf

Macron v. Le Pen on Immigration, Asylum and Integration

After lots of excitement in the final weeks leading up to the French election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will proceed to the runoff, a result that was widely predicted and yet produced significant surprise when it actually came to be, given the current distrust in the accuracy of polls.

When it comes to immigration, the differences between the top two candidates are significant, although they are not as diametrically opposed to one another as, say, Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon. While Le Pen offers a vision of a dramatically altered immigration regime for France, Macron essentially makes some measured tweaks to the status quo, focused on making the country a more attractive immigration destination for certain types of people and making the asylum process more efficient. Let’s see where the candidates come down on some of the big questions surrounding immigration, asylum, and integration.

Immigration: Invite more students and skilled labor, or reduce across the board?

Le Pen’s overall approach to migration is restrictive, although she doesn’t eradicate it totally as she has suggested in some speeches. She promises to reduce legal immigration to a total of 10,000 people per year, and change the law to restrict family reunification and acquisition of citizenship through marriage or birth in France. She also wants to crack down on irregular as well as EU immigration by leaving the Schengen zone and reestablishing borders, while bolstering border forces and customs agents.

Macron does not get into many specifics about his intentions on all forms of legal immigration, leaving us to assume that he wants to maintain the law as it stands on issues like the acquisition of citizenship and family reunification. (In fact, he asserts that “fantasies” about family reunification are overblown: only 12,000 received family reunification visas in 2015, and of these the majority received them under international rather than domestic legal commitments.)

Instead, Macron focuses on students and other types of “knowledge” migration. He would introduce new types of visas for professionals, scientists, and creators while streamlining existing procedures to make it easier for Masters students, artists, entrepreneurs and other highly qualified people to come to France.  Once they get there, he also wants to make it easier for them to access the labor market.

Asylum: Incredibly restricted, or restricted?

Both Le Pen and Macron in some way want to bolster the existing asylum regime to make it faster (and easier to deport people who do not receive asylum.) Le Pen would recruit 6,000 new border officers over five years, alter the asylum system to only take place in French consulates but not on French territory, and expel everyone else. (As we have noted, as stated these two last points likely violate French domestic and international obligations.)

Macron advocates for a “dignified” system that is nevertheless “inflexible” with people who are not entitled to remain. This inflexibility is reflected in a much faster decision process: decisions on asylum applications should be reached in 8 weeks (it currently averages around 11 months) and judgments on appeals should take 6-8 weeks. In this same proposal, Macron implies (without stating outright) that he prefers people seeking asylum to remain in detention to help speed up the process.

Having the applicants on site greatly reduces the processing time (removal of unavailability and sickness, which involves one quarter of the cases, removal of travel costs) and eliminates the time and notification disputes.

This notion could be problematic under European and international law, so here we need a little detour to briefly discuss the legality of mass detention of people seeking asylum.

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lays out in their Detention Guidelines, detention is an extraordinary measure that must be proscribed by law and justified by some legitimate purpose, not merely for convenience in speeding up asylum application proceedings.

Detention can only be exceptionally resorted to for a legitimate purpose. Without such a purpose, detention will be considered arbitrary, even if entry was illegal.

The Council of Europe concurs, saying in a recommendation on the subject of detention that people seeking asylum, although non-citizens, are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights: “no one shall be deprived of his liberty save in exceptional cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law, as stipulated by Article 5.1.b. and f. of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

A recent case at the European Court of Justice (2016) reiterates these principles and applies them directly to EU member states like France, narrowing the scope of justification for the detention of people seeking asylum to cases where the individual him or herself (and not just his or her status) presents a danger to public order or national security. Below, part of the Court’s ruling from JN v. Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie:

“…keeping an applicant in detention under point (e) of the first subparagraph of Article 8(3) of Directive 2013/33 is, in view of the requirement of necessity, justified on the ground of a threat to national security or public order only if the applicant’s individual conduct represents a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat, affecting a fundamental interest of society or the internal or external security of the Member State concerned.”

Detaining all people seeking asylum (including, presumably, children) so that their applications can be handled more quickly might infringe on international law, and Macron may be called upon to give a different justification for such a policy, or to restrict it to certain types of people (such as, e.g., people considered flight risks or threats to public security.)

Integration: Everybody just speak French

One place where Le Pen and Macron both concur is on the need of newcomers and nationals to learn French. Macron would encourage this by giving every newcomer to France the “entitlement” to learn French to the level of B1. In practical terms though, this isn’t so much a right as a requirement, since he proposes making this language acquisition a condition of a residence permit.

Le Pen rejects the concepts of multiculturalism and prefers the standard of “assimilation” over integration. To this end, she wants to strengthen ties with French-speaking communities across the world, ensure that French is spoken in universities, and “ensure primary schools spend half their teaching time on teaching spoken and written French.”

An imbalance in the candidates’ focus

In sum, the major difference between Le Pen and Macron is their focus. Le Pen has made restricting immigration and asylum one of the cornerstones of her campaign, while Macron is far more focused on economic and social considerations. Will his lack of focus cost him at the polls? Or will French people reject the kinds of radical, across the board changes that Le Pen is running on? We will find out in two weeks.

Sources and Further Reading
Marine Le Pen’s 144 Presidential Commitments (English) (PDF)
Emmanuel Macron’s Immigration and Asylum Proposals (French)
Detention Guidelines. UNCHR, 2012.
Rec(2003)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures of detention of asylum seeker. Council of Europe, 2003.
J. N. v Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie Judgment, Court of Justice of the European Union, 2016.
Detention of Asylum Seekers: The First CJEU Judgment -Steve Peers on EU Law Analysis Blog.
Images: Macron via Ville de Nevers on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2plFT1E, (CC by NC-SA-2.0), Le Pen via Blandine Le Cain http://bit.ly/2qa7K4Q (CC by 2.0)