• 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
Brexit vote
British business owner in Germany: why I support Brexit
Alexander McWhinney, owner of The English Shops. Photo: Private.

Scottish business owner Alexander McWhinney tells The Local why he supported the vote for a Brexit despite being an expat - much to the surprise of employees at his stores in the Rhineland.

Germany seeks seat on UN security council
The United Nations Security Council. Photo: DPA

Berlin last had a seat at the highest table of international security in 2011-12. Now the Foreign Minister has announced that Germany wants the role again.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Britain can’t cherry-pick Brexit terms
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the EU could survive a Brexit and warned Britain the union would not tolerate "cherry-picking" in upcoming negotiations on their future relations.

This film makes Darmstadt look more romantic than Paris
The Russian Orthodox Church in Darmstadt. Source: City, Light and Movement.

Not quite sure where Darmstadt is? A short film shot by a Syrian refugee will have you rushing to locate it on a map.

VW agrees to $14.7 bn payout in US emissions probe
Photo: DPA

Volkswagen has agreed to pay out $14.7 billion in a settlement with US authorities and car owners in the probe over its emissions-cheating diesel-powered cars, court documents showed Tuesday.

Brexit vote
Left leader calls for German referendum on EU deals
Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht. Photo: DPA.

The left-wing leader of the official opposition party in Germany said that it’s time the German people also have a say on what goes on in Brussels.

Teacher overpaid quarter of a million euros. No one notices
Photo: DPA

The Düsseldorf teacher was paid a full-time salary for six years, despite only working part time.

Euro 2016
Germans react with glee to England’s Iceland humiliation
Distraught England players after Iceland defeat. photo: DPA

Still upset by their British brothers voting for Brexit, Germans expressed an overwhelming sense of Schadenfreude at England's Euro 2016 exit.

Cleaning spray sets off shock explosion in Frankfurt cafe
Photo: Frankfurt fire department.

Four people have been injured in an explosion at a cafe in a Frankfurt shopping district. The culprit: cleaning products.

Brexit vote
Merkel vows to create 'new impulse' for EU
Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy vowed on Monday "a new impulse" for the EU as it reels from Brexit.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
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
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
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
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,865
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd