New language requirement ‘against human rights’

Foreigners who want to join their spouses in Germany will have to be able to form entire German sentences, according to a decision by a Berlin administrative court on Monday. In addition, the law stipulates that immigrating spouses must be at least 18. Moreover, the spouse’s move to Germany can be blocked if the couple cannot prove that they can provide for themselves.

“Those people who have a basic knowledge of German will have an easier time of it right from the start,” Maria Böhmer, the Government’s Commissioner for Migration, Refugees, and Integration told the Goethe Institute, a German government agency that provides German language and cultural knowledge abroad. Böhmer claimed that the law is especially helpful to women.

The decision is not yet legally binding. However, because of a change in the laws regarding residence permits, spouses who moved to Germany since August 2007 must prove at least basic knowledge of the German language in order to be granted a residence permit. Although many German officials have celebrated this law as a step forward for integration, many organizations representing foreigners in German are protesting this law.

Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, told daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, “I wish that all Turks in Germany could speak German. But making it compulsory is against human rights. And it doesn’t solve the problem.”

The Association of Bi-national Families and Partnerships (iaf) also criticized this law. “This revision of the existing law has triggered absolute disgust amongst our members,” Hiltrud Stöcker-Zafari from the iaf in Frankfurt told the Goethe-Institute. “Many of them feel the new law is an attack on their way of life.”

Another point of contention is that the law does not apply universally and is used as a social filter. The law says that people who are “obviously not in need of any special help with integrating themselves” are exempt. Members of the Turkish community in Germany are planning to legally challenge this law on grounds that it is unconstitutional.