There still hasn’t been an Isis attack on Germany

The last week has been brutal and shocking, but we need to stay calm and keep the events we have witnessed in perspective, argues Jörg Luyken.

There still hasn’t been an Isis attack on Germany
The attack site in Ansbach. Photo: DPA

Federal investigators have taken over the case looking into the bombing in Ansbach on Sunday that killed the attacker and left 15 other people injured, four of them seriously.

It takes a particular type of crime to go to federal prosecutors. The knife attack in Reutlingen which happened a few hours earlier is being treated as a local affair, despite also causing a fatality, as investigators believe it was a crime of passion.

The Ansbach case is different. Like the axe attack in Würzburg six days earlier, there is believed to be an Islamist motive behind it.

Prosecutors are investigating whether the bomber, Mohammed D., was a member of Isis and whether other people assisted in the attack.

But at this stage the evidence seems far from clear.

On Monday investigators found a video on the bomber’s phone in which he pledged allegiance to Isis.

Shortly after officials announced this, Isis claimed him as “our soldier” and later released a video of a man whose face was conveniently covered, but whom they claimed was Mohammed D.

There is more than a whiff of opportunism here. But that isn’t all.

Bild has done interesting research into the bomb and the bomber, and their findings give the distinct impression of a lack of competence to the operation which doesn’t fit with the deadly and effective nature of previous Isis attacks.

According to the tabloid, the charge was TATP, the substance used in the attacks on Paris and Brussels. But unlike in those attacks this easy to obtain but difficult to use substance was obviously not put to work by a skilled bomb maker.

Bild points out how undamaged the bomber’s rucksack was after the attack, as photos from the scene show.

Police sources also told the tabloid that D. “wanted to place the bomb at the entrance and detonate it from afar. That suggests that it exploded by mistake.”

The bomber himself was the only casualty and even he did not die immediately, as a woman at the scene attempted to resuscitate him.

“The explosive power of the bomb doesn’t seem to have been so great. One possible explanation is that the fuse detonated but the explosives didn’t,” Bild concludes.

Furthermore, the planning was unconvincing. The spot where Mohammed D.eventually set off the bomb does not appear to have been intended target. A security guard at a nearby music festival, where 2,000 people had congregated, saw D. observing him and walking up and down before deciding against entering.

This doesn't sound like the hardened, brainwashed murderers who killed police officers in front of Charlie Hebdo's offices or those who stormed the Bataclan concert hall with assault rifles.

The location is also susprising. Ansbach is a town of 40,000 people that few people outside Bavaria had heard of before the attack.

Isis, like al Qaeda, know that terrorism is most effective when it strikes the heart of a country.

New York, Madrid, London, Paris and Brussels have all been the site of the first terror attacks on other western countries. Ansbach would be a quixotic choice for their first German target, to say the least.

What we know about Mohammed D. also does not suggest he was a committed religious fanatic. He had tried to commit suicide twice, something considered a grave sin in Islam, like in Christianity. The fact that this attack came as Germany was trying to deport him also suggests a personal vendetta played a role.

The Würzburg attacker, we should also keep in mind, was someone who had radicalized himself, according to what we know from investigations.

The other two attacks last week – in Munich and Reutlingen – meanwhile, had nothing to do with Islamism.

None of this changes the fact that people have died on the streets of Germany in terrifying and random acts of aggression. It also shouldn’t stop us from looking more seriously at the risk that isolated, confused young refugees may turn to Isis as a channel for their anger.

But it does mean that we should keep perspective. Rampages can happen anywhere – they certainly happened in Germany before refugees from Muslim countries started arriving. And we know that they often lead to copycat attacks.

It is clear that there is no easy way to prevent them, but it is encouraging to see that Bavaria has reacted by announcing plans to strengthen its psychiatric care facilities.

On Tuesday Bavarian health minister Melanie Huml said that she wanted to “comprehensively build up psychiatric care for people in emergency situations.”

It is also no bad thing that enhanced security concepts are being discussed – it would be too idealistic to think every attack can be stopped through better treatment of troubled individuals.

What is less helpful is making premature and sweeping statements, for example when Bavarian minister-president Horst Seehofer began speaking about a “completely new dimension of terror”, before the facts support this assertion.

Let’s not fall into Isis’s propaganda trap and automatically assume they planned this. We shouldn’t need to remind ourselves that the aim of terrorism is to make us scared.

Now more than ever we need to stay calm and wait for the evidence to decide for us: until proven otherwise, I still say 'there has been no Isis attack on Germany.'

Correction: this article originally stated that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were carried out by Isis. They were in fact carried out by Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

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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’