Nimet Yavuz likely rues the day she ever decided to become a German citizen.
Not because the 49-year-old doesn’t feel at home after spending the past four decades in Berlin – she considers herself more German than Turkish these days.
But her fateful decision in 2005 to admit to the authorities she regained her Turkish passport despite becoming a German citizen could mean she’s deported to the country she left as child.
“I never would’ve had a problem if I’d kept my mouth shut,” she told daily paper Der Tagesspiegel this week.
German law has forbidden dual citizenship – with few exceptions – since 2000. But thousands of people from the country’s large Turkish community thought they’d receive leniency if they voluntarily told the German government they were in violation of the new rules.
Most have been stripped of their passports while receiving permanent residency in Germany. But in Yavuz’s case, she was only given a temporary permit because she was unemployed at the time. Then she made the mistake of staying 11 days too long during a holiday to Istanbul in 2008 to visit her daughter.
Now she faces being deported even though she’s lived in Berlin since childhood and was once a German citizen.
“There are a lot of cases like this especially in Berlin with its large Turkish population,” immigration lawyer Anne Glinka told The Local on Friday. “Sometimes members of the younger generation become German citizens, but their traditional fathers don’t agree with it so they apply for a Turkish passport for them.”
Dual citizenship does exist in Germany – but only for EU or Swiss nationals and Germans living abroad. But the Interior Ministry doesn’t see such inconsistency as a double standard.
“If someone takes citizenship from another country they normally lose their German passport, but they can petition the authorities to make an exception,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Christoph Hübner.
He said Germans had to prove they still had “special ties” to Germany to regional immigration officials in one the country’s 16 states. Might that mean some place like conservative Bavaria makes it harder to have dual citizenship than liberal Berlin?
“That could be,” Hübner admitted. “Those applying have to make the case that they should be able to keep their German citizenship.”
Glinka said the criteria for hopeful dual citizens covered everything from proving they still have close family in Germany to the right to pension benefits or other privileges. But the country’s tough line doesn’t only hurt members of the Turkish community like Yavuz.
Glinka said she knew of a case of a German man who emigrated to the United States only to find out he had been stripped of his citizenship after becoming an American.
“He didn’t get permission to have dual citizenship and when he came back he lost his German passport,” she said.
That, of course, is little consolation to a woman who faces deportation to Turkey after living her entire life in Berlin. “It’s not like I’m an asylum-seeker,” Yavuz told Der Tagesspiegel.
She now has to hope the city’s immigration hardship commission decides in her favour and allows her to stay in Germany.
“Nothing has been decided yet,” Renate Neupert, the head of the commission brusquely told The Local on Friday.
After initially expressing incomprehension over all the fuss being made of a “totally normal case,” Neupert backtracked somewhat.
“It’s not exactly a normal occurrence in Berlin,” she said. “But it’s exactly the kind of case that belongs with the hardship commission.”