Football fans show anger at Bild over refugees

Newspaper Bild scored an own goal with Germany's football fans over its "we're helping" refugee campaign, on a weekend when Dortmund maintained their perfect start to the season.

Football fans show anger at Bild over refugees
Fans at Stuttgart vs Schalke. Photo: DPA

The newspaper, backed by the German Football League (DFL) and Bundesliga sponsors Hermes, launched a campaign to get all 36 clubs in Germany's top two tiers to wear a badge with 'We're helping – #refugeeswelcome' on the sleeves of their playing shirts for this weekend only.

At face-value, the campaign appears to be an honourable initiative to encourage fans to do their part to help aid new arrivals in the country.

But it has turned into something of a public relations own-goal for Germany's best-selling newspaper after seven second division clubs opted to boycott and banners criticising Bild appeared at stadiums across the country.

'#BILDnotwelcome' was spotted at several grounds as fans voiced their discontent, including Darmstadt for Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, plus Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart for Sunday's key matches.

Germany has welcomed around 450,000 refugees this year with up to one million expected in 2015, according to Angela Merkel's government.

Initially all the clubs in Germany's top two tiers agreed to support the 'We're helping!' campaign, but St Pauli were the first to drop out, politely pointing out they have been helping refugees in Germany long before Bild decided to act.

St Pauli invited more than 1,000 immigrants in the city's holding centres to their recent friendly against Borussia Dortmund, amongst other initiatives to help refugees in Hamburg.

Bild, whose logo appears on the 'We're helping!' badge, had been criticised for negative coverage of refugees in Germany in the past and has now been accused of doing a U-turn in using the current crisis to improve their image.

Bild's chief editor Kai Diekmann poured oil on the fire by writing on Twitter last Wednesday: “No heart for refugees: what a shame! #refugeesnotwelcome St. Pauli is boycotting 'We're helping'”, which enraged Germany's football fans.

All of the 18 teams in Germany's first division took part in the one-off campaign, but many fan clubs put out statements urging their team to withdraw.

Six second division clubs followed St Pauli's example by pulling out, including Duisburg who wore a special shirt stating 'Refugees Welcome' for Sunday's 1-0 defeat at home to FSV Frankfurt.

“We feared having a shadow over us, due to the campaign, in the coming weeks, so we dispensed with the ('We're helping') badge on the arm,” explained Duisburg in a press release.

Kaiserslautern, who also boycotted the campaign, said they had done so because they feared “the real message was being pushed into the background”.

Dortmund keep winning

Borussia Dortmund regained top spot in the Bundesliga from Bayern Munich with a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen to preserve their 100 percent record after five straight wins.

Dortmund have now won 11 games in all competitions, but are top only on goal difference from defending champions Bayern Munich, who have also won all five games this season after beating Darmstadt 3-0 away on Saturday.

Early form suggests there will be a title-race in Germany this season after Bayern won the Bundesliga for each of the last three years at a canter.

Dortmund took the lead when right winger Jonas Hofmann profited from a mistake by Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno to slot into an empty net on 19 minutes.

Leverkusen should have been awarded a penalty when Mexico striker Javier Hernandez was pushed in the area by Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer on 53 minutes but referee Deniz Aytekin waved on play.

The hosts doubled their lead when left-winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan's pass put Shinji Kagawa in behind the defence to slot past Leno on 58 minutes.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted Dortmund's third and his six of the season to match Bayern's Thomas Mueller's tally as the league's joint top scorer.

Augsburg picked up their first win of the season with a 2-0 victory at Hanover 96 thanks to goals by right-winger Alexander Esswein and Dutch defender Paul Verhaegh.

Earlier, Schalke's Leroy Sane underlined his status as one of Germany's rising junior stars with his club's second-half winner to seal their 1-0 victory at VfB Stuttgart to leave the Royal Blues fourth.

On Saturday, Bayern, who are bidding to become the first team to win the German league four times in succession, went top of the table for 24 hours with a 3-0 win at Darmstadt for their fifth straight league win.

Arturo Vidal, Kingsley Coman and Sebastian Rode claimed their first goals of the season with Munich's star forward Robert Lewandowski injured and Thomas Müller on the bench.

Gladbach's disastrous start to the season continued as they lost 1-0 at neighbours Cologne, thanks to Anthony Modeste's second-half winner, in the Rhineland derby to stay bottom of the table with five defeats from five.

The victory left Cologne fifth while Gladbach, who lost their opening Champions League group stage match 3-0 at Seville on Tuesday, remain rooted to the foot of the table and Lucien Favre resigned on Sunday night.

Wolfsburg, who face Bayern away on Tuesday, celebrated their 70th birthday with a 2-0 home win over Hertha Berlin as Dutch striker Bas Dost netted twice to lift his side up to third.

After coming off the bench on 71 minutes, Dost netted the opener five minutes later, then drilled home a penalty on 89 minutes after a foul on Germany international Julian Draxler.

But Dost was later slammed by his coach Dieter Hecking for behaving 'like someone had taken his toys away' in training having been subbed off in Wolfsburg's Champions League win at home to CSKA Moscow last Tuesday.

Ingolstadt made history as the first Bundesliga team to win all three of their home games in their debut season in Germany's top flight after Moritz Hartmann drilled home a 93rd-minute penalty which put the Bavarians fifth with a 1-0 win at Werder Bremen.

Bremen were reduced to ten men five minutes into injury time when midfielder Philipp Bargfrede was sent off for fouling Ingolstsadt's USA international Alfredo Morales.

Hamburg were held to a goalless draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt while Mainz are seventh after Friday's 3-0 win at home to Hoffenheim when midfielder Yunus Malli claimed a hat-trick. 

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What Germany’s plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

To tackle its ever-widening skills gap, Germany wants to encourage talent from aboard to move to the country by introducing a points-based immigration system. Here's what foreigners need to know about the changes.

What Germany's plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

What’s a points-based system?

A points-based system is an immigration model where foreigners have to score above a certain threshold of points in order to obtain a residence or work permit in a country. The exact scoring system is set by the government, but can include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account. 

Points-based systems can also be known as “merit-based systems”, because there tends to be a pretty big emphasis on what you can offer a country in terms of education or skills. 

The model was first introduced in Canada way back in 1967 as the country tried to move past a system based on race and nationality to one that favoured language fluency, youth and educational or vocational background. A similar step was taken in Australia just a few years later in 1972 and, since Brexit, the UK has also introduced its own points-based model. 

How does this relate to Germany?

When the new ‘traffic-light’ coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) took office last December, the parties pledged to reform Germany’s immigration system and bring a fresh cohort of workers into the country.

“In addition to the existing immigration law, we will establish a second pillar with the introduction of an opportunity card based on a points system to enable workers to gain controlled access to the German labour market in order to find a job,” the coalition agreement read.

This would apply to third-country nationals who don’t otherwise have the right to live and work in the country. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s new government means for citizenship and naturalisation

German language course poster

A sign advertising German courses. Language skills can count towards points in a points-based system. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

FDP migration specialist Dr. Ann-Veruschka Jurisch, who is working on these reforms, says the policy is driven by Germany’s desperate need for workers. 

“The Liberal Party (FDP) is convinced that we need more labour migration,” she told The Local. “We do have a lot of options for coming into Germany as a labour migrant – but it’s a bit complicated – and if you want to come to Germany to search for a job and you don’t come from an EU country, it’s much more difficult.”

That’s why the coalition is aiming to offer a second route for people who don’t have job lined up in Germany, but who otherwise have the skills or talent to find one. 

What will this look like?

The plans for the points-based system are still at an early stage, so the exact criteria haven’t been worked out yet.

What’s clear at this stage, however, is that the points-based option would run parallel to the current model, which generally permits people with a concrete job offer in a skilled profession to come and work in the country. 

“It’s about (people having) a good opportunity to come to Germany when they have either a job offer in sight or a direct job offer,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in response to parliamentary question in January. 

“Next to that, we want to achieve a further possibility for talent – for qualified men and women whose skills we need in Germany, who still don’t have a work contract but, if given access, could use that opportunity. That’s what we’re talking about with this Canadian points-based system. It shouldn’t replace our current system, but rather improve it.”

In short, that means that people with a job lined up won’t be disadvantaged – but there will be alternative routes for those without them. It also won’t affect the EU blue card scheme

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

Will people need formal qualifications? 

Probably not – though it will obviously depend on the sector someone works in and their level of experience in their chosen field.

“I personally am convinced that you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on formal qualifications, because it’s very complicated getting your formal qualifications recognised in Germany,” said Jurisch.

“A medical doctor, for example, is one where you can’t say, ‘Okay, you’ve got some experience so we don’t need to see your papers.’ But there are a lot of other jobs which do not have this restriction and they are not formalised but rather based on practical experience.”

Carpenter wood

A carpenter sands down a block of wood in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

The issue of recognising qualifications is also a problem that the traffic-light coalition has set their sights on solving during their time in office.

At the moment, the process of getting qualifications officially recognised in Germany is done on a state-by-state basis, so somebody who gets their degree recognised in Brandenburg may have to redo the entire process again in Bavaria, for instance.

According to Jurisch, there have already been conversations between the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education on the issue, and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has also promised to take steps to solve it.

But, she said, it’s complicated: “I’ve started to dive into this issue, and the more I dive into it, the more complicated it becomes – so there are no silver bullets.” 

How many workers are needed – and where? 

In order to plug its labour shortages, Germany needs around 400,000 new workers every year, according to the Federal Employment Agency. In 2020, Germany’s net migration was just 200,000 and 150,000 people of working age entered retirement – which means the country is currently falling well short of its targets. 

“We have shortages everywhere,” Jurisch said. “We need 400,000 new workers every year, and these people won’t be born in Germany – or if they are, they won’t grow up for another 20 years.

“We haven’t managed to get more women into the labour market, or they work part time, so I don’t think this will make a big difference, and I don’t think we will close the gap by training people.”

In this sense, it seems that immigration is the only option for filling major staff shortages in almost every profession. 

“Whoever I talk to, be it nurses, nannies, IT workers, industrial workers, teachers, lawyers – everywhere we have a shortage,” Jurisch said.

staff shortages Germany

A sign outside a restaurant informs customers of a closure due to staff shortages. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

When will the points-based system be introduced?

Unlike with the plans to reform citizenship, which the SDP-led Interior Ministry wants to achieve by the end of the year, there’s no firm timeline in place for the points-based system.

However, the FDP is fighting for the policy to be given higher priority and would like to introduce the new visa system before the next federal election in 2025. 

“I hope it will be done in this legislative period,” said Jurisch. “I’m pushing to get it a little bit higher up on the agenda.” 

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: ‘Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’