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Opposition demands overhauled citizenship laws as naturalisations drop

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Opposition demands overhauled citizenship laws as naturalisations drop
Photo: DPA
16:12 CEST+02:00
New government statistics showed this week that fewer immigrants are becoming German citizens, spurring opposition politicians to call for reforms to a system they say impedes naturalisation when the country urgently needs to buoy its shrinking population.

According to the new numbers from the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis), the number of people to gain German citizenship has been decreasing in recent years. Between 2000 and 2007 some 140,000 people received German passports each year, but since then the numbers began decreasing and last year just 96,100 did.

The socialist Left party on Tuesday accused the government of failing to make an effort to increase numbers. Spokesperson for immigration policy Sevim Dagdelen said her party would soon present a new plan for naturalisation after only five years that does not depend on income.

Meanwhile Green party leader Cem Özdemir, who as the son of Turkish immigrants did not gain citizenship until 1983, complained that the country is ignoring its “existing naturalisation potential.”

Özdemir encouraged the government to abolish its requirement to give up native citizenship when gaining a German passport. He also criticised a recent call by two conservatives for an intelligence test for immigrants as a sign the country's frequently noted inhospitality.

On Monday conservatives Peter Trapp and Markus Ferber told daily Bild that humanitarian concerns should no longer be the only criteria in accepting immigrants into Germany and suggested they also be required to take an intelligence test to insure their economic potential.

Their comments were met with strong criticism from within their party and beyond.

Parliamentary whip for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) Peter Altmaier said the two were “not necessarily brilliant” in their remarks, which only serve to bog down the integration policy debate.

Head of the parliamentary interior committee and CDU member Wolfgang Bosbach told broadcaster Deutschlandradio their suggestions should not be taken seriously.

Meanwhile Barbara John, who served as Berlin's integration commissioner from 1981 to 2003, said that many highly qualified immigrants were overlooking Germany as a potential new home.

“We can no longer seek out these immigrants, instead they look for the countries where they'd like to go,” she told broadcaster SWR.

Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Interior Minister and member of the CSU, the state's sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU, also rejected tightening naturalisation criteria to focus on intelligence and educational qualifications, as his fellow party member Ferber suggested.

Instead the country needs to focus on building its workforce, he told daily Bild, adding that intelligence isn't a factor there.

“If for example we need caregivers in Germany, a highly educated academic does no good,” he said.

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