German Citizens Face Expatriation
Up to 50,000 German-Turks as well as tens of thousands of ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union could lose their German passports and even be expelled from Germany due to confusion about German citizenship laws.
Turkish daily Hürriyet reported that Turks who applied for Turkish citizenship after being naturalized in Germany now face expatriation, saying most people were likely unaware of the subtleties of German citizenship laws.
A reform of citizenship rules in 2000 made it easier for foreigners to obtain German citizenship. But after obtaining German citizenship, citizens lose their German passport if they apply for citizenship in another country. Germany allows dual citizenship in only very limited cases.
Most of the naturalized Turks in question successfully applied for Turkish citizenship at consulates across Germany, according to Hürriyet. Further complicating matters is the fact that many applied for dual citizenship when Germany still permitted it - before the new regulations went into effect five years ago.
"The Turkish authorities took many years to process the applications so that to many thousands the Turkish citizenship was granted only after the new German law went into effect," explained Hakki Keskin, head of the Association of Turkish Communities in Germany.
"The applicants themselves had no way of influencing this procedure. It's unfair that they should now lose their German citizenship and even face an uncertain status of residence, despite the fact that they've lived in Germany for many decades," he told reporters Monday in Berlin, calling on the government to find a humane solution to the issue.
Barking up the wrong tree?
Keskin pointed out that in comparison to most other EU member countries, Germany's legislation on citizenship rights was outdated and rigid.
"Granting full citizenship rights is the precondition for a sensible integration policy," Keskin said.
The government coalition of Social Democrats and Greens had never wanted to restrict dual citizenship rights for non-EU residents in the first place. However, they were forced to bow to the conservative-dominated upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
The head of the German parliament's interior affairs committee, Cornelia Sonntag-Wolgast, said Monday the government was willing to find a solution which would not run afoul of the new legislation.
"I think it's absurd to couple this new debate on citizenship laws with a fresh discussion about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism," Sonntag-Wolgast said.
Looking for a solution
"Unfortunately, the opposition conservatives have been doing just that by claiming that granting citizenship to people from Muslim countries would open the doors to terrorist activities," she added. "I hope we can find a solution to the tricky issue quickly without discriminating against those who've lived and worked in this country for so long."
Over the next couple of weeks, government representatives are scheduled to hold talks with conservative leaders in a bid to resolve the issue.
© DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE 2005