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Saturday, June 15, 2024  
08 Dhul-Hijjah 1445  

Germany relaxes citizenship law to attract migrant workers

Citizenship will be available after five years' residence in country
The German national flag flies in front of the Reichstag building, the seat of the lower house of the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, April 5, 2022. REUTERS/File
The German national flag flies in front of the Reichstag building, the seat of the lower house of the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, April 5, 2022. REUTERS/File

Germany shortened foreigners’ paths to citizenship and ended a ban on dual nationality on Friday by passing a naturalisation law designed to attract more migrant workers.

The new law, a signature policy of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition of centrist and left-leaning parties, was adopted after a stormy debate in parliament, during which opposition legislators accused the government of devaluing citizenship and adding to the burden migration is placing on public services.

“Two passports is the most normal thing in the world in 2024 and has long been reality in most countries,” said Social Democrat legislator Reem Alabali-Radovan, born in Moscow to Iraqi Assyrian parents who won asylum in Germany in 1996.

“We, the 20 million people of migrant background, we are staying here. This country belongs to us all, and we won’t let it be taken away,” she said, proposing the law, which must be signed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Citizenship will be available after five years’ residence, reduced from eight, in line with neighbouring countries such as France. Three years will be enough for the “exceptionally well integrated”.

Dual nationality, now normally allowed only for citizens of other EU countries, will be permitted, letting tens of thousands of German-born Turks become voting members of society after their parents and grandparents contributed to the country’s post-war reconstruction.

Until the start of this century, Germany had one of the world’s most restrictive naturalisation laws, with citizenship available only to people who could show even very distant German ancestors.

Progressives have long demanded a citizenship law that acknowledges the reality that Germany has been an ethnically diverse multicultural society since guest workers from Italy and Turkey first arrived to ease labour shortages in the 1960s.

Earlier, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the new law was needed to compete in the global competition for skilled labour with countries like Canada and the United States.

But parties are also competing to sound tougher on immigration, promising to speed deportations of illegal immigrants, in a bid to contain the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been surging in the polls amid a weak economy and frustrations over public services.

The AfD, the target of angry street protests and calls for its banning after senior members were caught discussing plans to deport “unassimilated” German citizens of foreign background, opposes the law, as do the opposition conservatives, who warned against “devaluing” the German passport and importing division.

“You want to create new voters for yourselves with this law,” conservative legislator Alexander Throm told coalition politicians. “But careful: Most (Turks) who live here vote for AKP and (Turkish President Tayyip) Erdogan…You’re bringing the conflict to us.”

Surveys show German Turks, many of whom are of ethnic Kurdish or Arab background, vote for the full range of Turkish parties, none of which run in German elections.

In a video message on Friday welcoming the new citizenship law, Chancellor Scholz called planned nationwide protests against right-wing extremists this weekend “good and right”.

“With the new citizenship law, we are saying to all those who have often lived and worked in Germany for decades, who abide by our laws, who are at home here: You belong to Germany,” Scholz said.

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