German citizenship law faces first reading with heated Bundestag debate
On November 30, politicians of the German Bundestag met to carry out the first reading of the country’s new dual citizenship law. The law will now be designated to a special committee for deliberation before the second debate.
German politicians debate citizenship law in first Bundestag reading
After a heated, hour-long debate during its first reading, Germany’s dual citizenship law will now move into the next stage of the legislative process. If passed, the new law will significantly ease the path for non-EU migrants to get a German passport. Initially scheduled for a debate on November 9, the first reading was suddenly removed from the agenda before finally being brought to the floor today.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was the first to speak, arguing the case for a “more modern migration politics”. Faeser implored that Germany can only hope to tackle its worker shortage if the country can win “the best minds” by offering migrants a more secure status. “We won’t get the prosperity of tomorrow with the rules of yesterday”, she added.
Faeser was followed by CDU / CSU MP Alexander Throm, who branded the new legislation “not a modernisation law, but a devaluation law”, arguing that it is impossible for migrants to integrate into German society after eight years, let alone three or five.
Greens MP Filiz Polat rebutted that the current legislation means even many people who were born in Germany or have lived here for over 40 years cannot claim a German passport without sacrificing their original nationality.
German politicians accuse opposing parties of dividing the country
Since the draft law was discussed in the Bundesrat, an amendment has been made to include “gender-specific or anti-sexual orientation acts”, such as transphobic or homophobic crimes, from the list of convictions which would prevent someone from being able to acquire German citizenship.
Speaking to the floor on Thursday, Faeser added that any antisemitic, racist, xenophobic or inhuman acts, "even at the bagatelle level” would remove eligibility. But this wasn’t enough for the CDU / CSU’s Philipp Amthor, who said these limitations did not adequately describe the ways that migrants should subscribe to German culture if they want to become citizens.
The debate saw regular heckles from the floor, with speakers from both sides accusing their opposition of dividing Germany. The AFD MP Gottfried Curio’s underlined his party's opposition to the law by ripping up a copy of the draft following his speech.
As the debate moved on, FDP’s Konstantin Kühle called on Germany to finally recognise the work and achievements of migrants who have been paying taxes in Germany for three generations without holding citizenship, while Greens MP Hakan Demir argued that these people have already proven that they are integrated into Germany.
German citizenship reform: What happens now?
The legislative proceedings will now move into the next stage, with a second reading in the Bundestag, though a date for this has not yet been confirmed.
Ahead of the second reading, the bill has been designated to the Committee on Internal Affairs and Home Affairs, which will lead deliberations and be in charge of organising public hearings to further discuss the law and make any amendment recommendations.
Finally, there will be a vote held at the end of the third reading. On this occasion, the current German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will ask the elected politicians for their votes or abstentions.
If all this goes to plan, people in Germany can expect the new citizenship law to be enforced from April 2024. However, processing times to apply for German citizenship can be years-long in some German cities, so it might still be a while until you hold your very own passport.
What else was discussed in the Bundestag sitting?
Another legislative change which was discussed at the November 30 sitting was Germany’s new controversial law to speed up the process of deporting asylum seekers who have had their applications rejected.
The draft law, which was put forward by Faeser, will make it easier for the German government to deport people by increasing police powers, such as removing the requirement of German authorities to inform asylum seekers that there is a plan to deport them. Only ill people or people caring for children would be exempt from this new rule.
In order to identify asylum seekers, police will also be granted new powers to search the homes of third-party people related to the person they want to deport. Until now, these search powers were restricted to the bedroom of the person being targeted by police.
According to InfoMigrants, many asylum seekers are missing documentation, either because they have never registered for identity documentation which is recognised by the German government, or because they have had their documents stolen or taken by people smugglers during their journey to the federal republic.
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