• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Immigrant helper 'too qualified' for Germany

Josie Le Blond · 14 May 2014, 11:58

Published: 14 May 2014 11:58 GMT+02:00

The Berlin interior senator has now asked German visa authorities to reconsider their decision to deny Simran Sodhi a visa extension at the start of May.

The 27-year-old, who moved to Germany in 2008, has worked as an integration guide helping immigrants find their feet in a deprived district of Berlin since January.

Yet after six years in the country, the German visa authorities (Ausländerbehörde) sent her a letter saying she must leave by the end of May.

In their final ruling, the authorities said that as Sodhi holds a Masters degree, she is overqualified for her current position, where she helps newly-arrived immigrants find accommodation and employment in the south-east Berlin district of Treptow-Köpenick.

Sodhi is also being underpaid in her state-funded job, the authorities found, adding that there existed no "public interest" in her continued employment.  

Outraged at this treatment, Sodhi's colleagues at the "With Wings and Roots" film and education project launched a petition on Monday demanding she be allowed stay and continue her work.

"Simran's application ... hinged on her having graduated from a German university," Sodhi's colleague at the project Christina Antonakos-Wallace told The Local.

"As such, the permit is tied to working in one's field of study. In the Ausländerbehörde's decision, they imply that working as a social worker with migrants and refugees is not an appropriate job for someone with a Masters in social sciences. This is something we find ridiculous," she added.

“We consider the actions of the authorities extremely contradictory,” reads the text accompanying the petition, which by Wednesday lunchtime had gathered over 33,000 signatures. “The Berlin Senate offers only limited financial resources for this [integration] work.

“Therefore, Simran's employer cannot pay her more. The order that Simran must leave Germany because of this contradiction is absurd."

At the same time, the Treptow-Köpenick district authority and the district's Centre for Democracy sent letters to Berlin's Senator for the Interior Frank Henkel appealing to him to step in on her behalf.

Pressure grew as opposition politicians flocked to the cause on Tuesday, when Henkel issued a statement calling for a review of the case.

Although the Ausländerbehorde had done an acceptable job, said Henkel, he did not support their assessment of whether or not Sodhi's work served the public interest.

"It would be in my view a false signal if the impression was given that Berlin is penalizing qualifications and public engagement,” he said.

"In my view there is a great interest in finding a solution for the party concerned. But that has to happen in accordance with the applicable law. If there's a way that she can continue her job we will try to facilitate this."

Sodhi also speaks Hindi, Urdu, English and German in her work and also leads workshops for young people and adults facing discrimination and racism problems.

Story continues below…

With all parties hoping for a solution, Green politician Ramona Pop told regional broadcaster rbb that forcing Sodhi to leave Germany was a ridiculous idea.

"It gets even better when the expulsion is justified by a too-low income which is paid by the Berlin state as an employer,” she said sarcastically. “Then it just becomes Absurdistan." 

"We have been incredibly happy about the support the petition has received," petition author Antonakos-Wallace told the Local. "Simran's absurd story has touched on a number bigger structural problems in immigration policy, public funding, and even the undervaluing of Integration workers and social workers in general." 

Yet she remained cautious about Henkel's intervention. "We welcome his statement, but until a decision has been made, nothing is guaranteed. We have to continue to apply pressure and show our support."

SEE ALSO: Thousands exit Germany for Bulgaria and Romania

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Josie Le Blond (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'We'll freeze Turkey talks' warns EU as arrests continue
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a radical purge against anyone suspected of complicity in the coup attempt. Photo: DPA

As Turkish authorities on Friday widened their sweeping post-coup crackdown to the business sector, the European Union's enlargement commissioner implicitly warned that the bloc would freeze Turkey's accession talks if the crackdown violated the rule of law.

I’m ashamed of Germany’s refugee failure: Green leader
Cem Özdemir. Photo: DPA

The head of the Green Party has responded angrily to Angela Merkel’s speech on refugees on Friday, saying he feels “ashamed at Germany’s failure".

German satirists mock Erdogan (and his penis)
Photo: DPA

Tempting fate?

Huge pro-Erdogan rally puts strain on Turkish community
Erdogan supporters at a rally in 2014. Photo: DPA

Tens of thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to rally in Cologne on Sunday, as tensions over Turkey's failed coup have put German authorities on edge.

Opinion
How the Berlin startup scene is wasting its potential
Photo: DPA

"The truth is, there really isn't a truly successful international Berlin startup."

Five years' jail for German darknet weapons dealer
Photo: DPA

He had sold weapons to known Isis-sympathizers and far-right extremists.

Prickly Bavarian calls out cops on hedgehogs' noisy sex
Photo: DPA

Caught in the act.

International or German state school - which one's best?
Photo: DPA

Deciding between sending your child to a German state school or a private international school isn't easy. Max Bringmann has experienced both.

13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make

Sure-fire ways to get off on the wrong foot in the German language.

Captain Schweinsteiger retires from international football
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

He has won a World Cup with Die Mannschaft and captained them at Euro 2016. On Friday Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from the national team.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
10,718
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd