Naturalization in Germany: A fact check in figures and graphics – Politics
In your coalition agreement the parties in the traffic light government have agreed to reform the naturalization law. The goal is to “take social reality into account,” it says on page 6. Interior Minister Nancy Faser has now submitted a draft containing the cornerstones of a new law.
The most important planned innovations: Unlike before, immigrants are to stay in Germany after only five years Germany can apply for German citizenship, in the case of “special integration achievements” even after three. The time limit for this is currently eight years. The aim of the reform is also to “generally allow multiple nationalities,” as stated in the Interior Ministry’s draft. In Germany, the principle of avoiding two or more citizenships has so far applied.
These and other planned changes in the naturalization law are met with criticism from the opposition, but also from the coalition partner FDP. Germany is “selling” its citizenship, according to the Union, the Interior Ministry must first speed up the deportation of people who are obliged to leave the country, criticizes the FDP. How about the immigration really off? A fact check on the most important points of contention with figures and graphics.
Does Germany sell off its citizenship?
A look at the statistics shows that the number of naturalizations has stagnated in recent years. Only Brexit in 2019 and the naturalization of many Syrians in 2021 caused two spikes.
With a shortening of the period for naturalization to five years, Germany would be left behind internationally trendy: In the USA, France and the Netherlands you can become a citizen after five years. In Australia this is already possible after four years, in Canada even after three. CDU boss Friedrich Merz had countered the federal government’s suggestion that other states were much stricter when it came to naturalization. This tends not to apply, at least to deadlines.
The head of the CSU national group, Alexander Dobrindt, accuses the government that the innovation would “sell off” German citizenship. So far, Germany has been in the bottom third in an EU comparison in terms of the number of naturalizations. In 2020, 1.1 percent of foreigners living in Germany were naturalized. In countries with shorter deadlines, the numbers are sometimes significantly higher.
However, the reverse conclusion, according to which stricter naturalization rules lead to a lower rate, does not apply to Italy. As a non-EU foreigner, you usually have to have lived in the republic for ten years at a time, to get a passport. With such deadlines, Italy is not suspected of making it particularly easy for foreigners to obtain the citizenship. And yet in 2020 it was the EU country with the most naturalizations (131,800).
Is facilitated naturalization a “pull factor”?
Merz and Dobrindt warn that the planned reform of citizenship law will become more illegal migration and lead to “immigration into the social systems”. In migration research, however, the concept of push and pull factors is strongly questioned. It states that negative circumstances such as wars and environmental disasters pushed people out of their country of origin (push). Positive incentives in other countries, such as jobs or higher living standards, therefore attract people (pull). However, experts assume that cultural proximity and social contacts play a much greater role in the selection of the target country than the prospect of social benefits. For example, most Syrian refugees live in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.
In Germany, the principle applies: avoid dual citizenship. But is it respected?
The principle has one restriction: Citizens of another EU state or Switzerland can keep their French or Italian citizenship if they are naturalized. It is not possible to say exactly how many people in Germany have multiple nationalities because the number is not recorded anywhere. The 2011 census indicates 4.3 million people who have another citizenship in addition to German, in the 2021 microcensus there are only 2.6 million.
However, the principle laid down in German law is no longer applied in many cases. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 65 percent of newly naturalized people were allowed to keep their old passport in 2020. The regional differences that are made when it comes to multiple nationalities are striking: in most cases, people from the USA or South America do not have to give up their previous citizenship, unlike Turkish or African immigrants, for example. Of those who were naturalized in 2020 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana, only around eight percent were allowed to keep their citizenship, compared to ten percent of people from Turkey. The situation is different for Syrian or Iranian citizens: Here it is often not possible to give up your citizenship.
Is there really so little deportation in Germany?
FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai accuses Interior Minister Faeser of the draft coming at the wrong time: First, the state must speed up returns, he says. The Greens counter that the deficit is not that big.
In fact, the number of deportations from Germany has fallen sharply in the past two years. Between 2015 and 2019, between 20,000 and 25,000 people were sent back from Germany to their countries of origin every year – in 2020 it was 10,800, last year almost 12,000. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the reason for this was the corona pandemic. Many countries had tightened entry rules, and some severely restricted air traffic. Currently in Germany after mirror-Information about 300,000 people are required to leave the country, but most of them have a Duldung. According to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Greens, Filiz Polat, the number of those who could actually be deported is much lower. Only 18,000 people would have a rejected asylum application without toleration.