Sep 13, 2010

Germany open to migrant workers, but…

September 12, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – As Germany expands its labor market, it will keep its doors open to highly qualified migrants but strictly enforce the law on low-skilled labor illegally crossing its borders, sounding off a fair warning to migrants, including Filipinos.

“If you are highly qualified, Germany wants you, especially in the healthcare and technology sector.

But for low skilled jobs, it is much more complicated,” lady pastor Fanny Dethloff, national representative of Kirchenasyl (Asylum in Churches), said.

Dethloff made the statement before participants to this year’s 27-day Summer Academy on Freedom and Responsibility in Media held recently in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany.

The topic on 7.8 million foreign nationals living and working in Germany came up as Dethloff explained to mostly Asian and African participants how the Deutschland wants to expand its labor market without neglecting its irregular migration policy.

She said Germany’s preference for highly-skilled rather than the low skilled labor migrants prompted the latter group to enter the European country through unlawful means.

Most of them who violate the regular process end up being deported, and detained.

While, German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle called for the easing up of the Germany’s migration law to address its labor needs, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, rejected this proposal, saying that there was no need to modify the law controlling migrant workers, which took effect in January last year.

German Education Minister Schavan as well as business leaders also called for the opening of doors to skilled immigrants to boost their economy.

German economic experts warned that in the next 14 years, Germany will be in need of more than 200,000 technicians, engineers, and even scientists.

Dethloff, also the chairwoman of the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum, is into giving spiritual and psychological support to imprisoned asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

The ecumenical committee, which is led by the lady pastor is a network of associations of German Protestant, Catholic and Free Church parishes offering asylum to refugees who flee due to fear of persecution or life-threatening situation in their home country.

According to the briefer from the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum posted on its website, these parishes place themselves between refugees and the authorities in order to bring about a re-examination of cases and to prevent deportation.

Dethloff said every year, there are 33,000 people seeking asylum in Germany.

She said they never discriminate asylum seekers, whatever his or her religion or race. “We help them to stay they don’t have to be baptized as a requirement,” she said.

She said they had difficulty in identifying and distinguishing who is a labor migrant, refugee or an asylum seeker, since irregular migrants claim that they are refugees and have to seek asylum because they are being persecuted or threatened in their country of origin.

“It’s really hard to tell who is persecuted in one’s home country. What if they are dying of hunger there because they don’t have opportunities? Do we consider them persecuted?” Dethloff said. “It is not very easy to live in Germany,” she said.

With the intervention of asylum churches, from 1999 and 2001, over 75 per cent of church asylum cases ended with a solution protecting refugees from human rights violations and from danger of physical harm, according to the statistical information gathered by the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum.

Marcelle Bugre, who works at refugee and asylum camps in Malta, noted the maltreatment committed by a number of foreign employers against labor migrants.

“They are treated similar to slaves. They can’t go out,” she said.

She recalled instances in which Filipino migrants sought her assistance because of their deplorable conditions.

“They have legal documents, but the problem is they are being treated badly by their employers,” Bugre said, calling Filipino migrants as “friendly and kind people.”

The German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum said it is possible that applications for refugee status, for protection from deportation or for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds (as provided for by the German Residence Act or “Aufenthaltsgesetz”) as well as claims to special treatment because of unacceptable hardships, have been refused, although the situation does in fact call for protection from forcible deportation.

“Investigations related to church asylum cases have so far mostly been closed without ending in a court proceeding. However, in some cases pastors or members of the church council had to pay a fine,” it said.

From October 7 to 9, a conference in Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (Holy Cross Church) will be held in Berlin on “The New Sanctuary Movement in Europe, Healing and Sanctifying Movement in the Churches.”

A number of speakers and guests from several European countries will participate in the conference where they are expected to share experiences with church asylum, and discuss the harmonization of the EU asylum law, and the Dublin II regulation.

Germany has turned into a country of immigrants in the past 50 years. About 10 percent of about 82 million people living in Germany do not have a German passport making it a multicultural European country. (Charissa M. Luci, Businessmirror)

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