Berlin and immigrants clash over visa rules
12 July 2007, Berlin (dpa) - A row between ethnic Turks and the German government sharpened with Berlin refusing to alter new legislation that restricts the issue of residency visas to Turkish women and some Turkish groups boycotting the "integration summit" Thursday.
12 July 2007
Berlin (dpa) - A row between ethnic Turks and the German government sharpened with Berlin refusing to alter new legislation that restricts the issue of residency visas to Turkish women and some Turkish groups boycotting the "integration summit" Thursday.
Four major Turkish groups boycotted the summit in protest at legislation passed last week which raises the hurdles for newly wed Turkish women moving to Germany to live with their husbands. They must be over 18 and pass a language test.
Kenan Kolat, chairman of a secular association, Turkish Community, said in a television interview that his group would challenge the legislation as discriminatory in Germany's constitutional court after it had been gazetted into law.
But government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said the law passed last week would stay, since it was the result of lengthy consultations with public groups.
German residents seeking immigration clearance for their wives must prove they are older than 18. Wives from Turkey must additionally prove that they speak basic German.
"It won't be changed," said Wilhelm, adding that Berlin was still open to dialogue.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summit said she wants better integration into German society while meeting with minority leaders in Berlin. She announced government assistance to minorities approved by the German cabinet Wednesday which federal leaders fear are developing into separate societies.
The government had approved a package of 150 measures to bring immigrant communities into mainstream German society, including an expansion of nearly free German-language courses.
The length of time that each immigrant can attend such a course was increased by 50 per cent.
Private language schools and non-profits, which obtain federal grants to conduct the courses, must also provide baby-sitting for mothers while they learn German and there will be extra grants to train the illiterate and difficult-to-educate teenagers.
The federal government also aims to set up a network of sponsors to help immigrant families.
Maria Boehmer, the federal migration commissioner, said the language courses were among 150 measures in the package, which also aimed at easing access by children of immigrants to apprenticeships and degree courses.
"The federal government is decisively helping to improve the integration of 15 million people in migrant families in this country," Boehmer said.
The 90 community leaders at the summit were to adopt a "national integration plan" containing 400 promises for improvements.
Amid fears that poor minorities may be radicalized, business leaders also attended the "integration summit." They have been pressed to train and employ larger numbers of immigrant youths.
Merkel's second "integration summit" at her office - the first was held one year ago - was marred by a boycott by the principal Turkish mosque group, Ditib, and major Turkish secular associations.
Merkel responded in a television interview, "We are offering the hand of friendship. If they have concerns, we can talk about it, but only when we remain in dialogue."
Ali Demir, president of the Islamic Religious Association of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, said he was ignoring the boycott call and praised Boehmer's work as "excellent."
Demir approved of the new law, which he said served the interest of integration.
"People who live in Germany should look for wives in this country, not in the backwoods of Anatolia," he said.
But Bekir Alboga, secretary for integration issues at Ditib, said that his group didn't come to Berlin and won't unless Merkel took charge of the immigration issue.
Boehmer said she found it was "totally exaggerated" for the summit to be boycotted by Kolat's group, the Ditib network of mosques, the Turkish Parents' Association and the Council of Germans of Turkish Extraction.
Germany has a population of nearly 82 million, of whom 7.3 million are not German citizens, according to official statistics.
But the federal government estimates that ethnic minorities total 15 million people, including those who are have obtained German citizenship by naturalization or because they were children of mixed marriages between a German and a foreigner.
The German student welfare federation said Wednesday that only 8 per cent of tertiary students came from such migrant families, according to a late 2006 survey of 17,000 students.
Subject: German news