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Why Trump is wrong (again) on migrants and crime in Germany

Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to fire off two tweets about the “tenuous” state of politics in Germany. Not for the first time, he showed his ignorance of developments in German society.

Why Trump is wrong (again) on migrants and crime in Germany
Donald Trump. Photo: DPA

Trump waded into the political crisis facing Chancellor Angela Merkel, declaring that the German people were “turning against their leadership” over immigration.

“We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!” he said in a pair of tweets.

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,” he said, adding that “crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

Trump's comments came as Merkel was fighting to save her coalition government amid demands by her interior minister to turn back immigrants at the border.

Is crime ‘way up’?

Whether it is appropriate for him to say so or not, Trump is right in his claim that a fight over asylum laws is rocking the German government. Merkel’s future as Chancellor has never looked so uncertain after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer reportedly said he couldn’t work with her any more.

The US President is also right when he says the German population has turned against Merkel on this issue. Opinion polling shows that a majority of the public support Seehofer, who wants to turn back asylum seekers at the border who have already been registered in other EU countries.

But his assertion that “crime in Germany is way up” is simply not true. Crime figures for last year show a drastic drop in reported crime. Most types of crime – including violent crime – fell in 2017, meaning it was actually the year with the least reported crime in three decades.

While reported crime is a far from reliable way of calculating actual crime, it is also the only method that currently exists of tracking nationwide crime trends.

Trump also asserts that refugees have “strongly and violently” changed German culture. What exactly he means by this is not clear. German beer consumption has dropped in recent years but we haven’t seen any refugees ripping Maßes from their hands at Oktoberfest. Last time we checked they were also still fans of Bratwurst and bad pop music.

There is a serious debate to be had on crime linked to asylum seekers. Several politicians from moderate parties such as the Greens and the Christian Democrats have stuck their heads above the parapet and pointed out that asylum seekers are over-represented in crime statistics.

SEE ALSO: Why are refugees disproportionately likely to be suspects in sexual assault cases?

Meanwhile German newspapers have started to tentatively talk about the prevalence of refugees as suspects in sexual assault cases.

A serious question to ask is whether Germany takes the connection between asylum seekers and certain types of crime seriously enough. But stating that crime is “way up” due to refugees in a highly irresponsible distortion, especially when it comes from the President of the US.

This also isn’t the first time Trump has been guilty of exaggerating the crime rate in Germany.

In 2016 he said that “you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought they would ever, ever see. It is a catastrophe.”

He made that statement when the latest crimes figures (those for 2015) showed that recorded crime per head in Germany had dropped from 7,337 crimes per 100,000 resident to 7,301 per 100,000 residents.

READ ALSO: What we learned from this year's crime statistics… and what we didn't

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‘Lack of transparency’: What it’s like to apply for permanent residence in Germany

Getting permanent residency can be a great way to secure your rights in Germany - but what's it like going through the application process? The Local spoke to readers about their experiences.

'Lack of transparency': What it's like to apply for permanent residence in Germany

For non-EU citizens living in Germany, permanent residence is often the go-to status when they decide to build a life here. For years, there have been strict rules that make it difficult to obtain dual nationality, so those who aren’t keen on losing their old citizenship can secure their rights by becoming permanent residents instead.

On the Make it in Germany website – set up by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) – information in English states that most applicants simply need to fulfil a short list of requirements. They need to prove they know German, are well integrated, have a secure livelihood, and have held another residence permit for at least five years.

But how are these rules applied in practice, and how long does it take to switch from a temporary visa to permanent residence?

When The Local spoke to readers about their applications, we found hugely varied experiences for people on different types of visa and in different parts of the country.

“The requirements for permanent residency are clearly defined in the law,” said 27-year-old Manpreet J., who’s originally from India. “What is not defined is how to prove that they are met. This is where the problem begins.”

According to Manpreet, there are even different definitions of a secure livelihood in different regions. In Aachen, for example, a temporary work contract wouldn’t be enough to fulfil this requirement, while just 30km away in Heinsberg, it would.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

‘Bring everything you can think of’

Jaton’ West, a 77-year-old retiree who lives in Berlin, found the criteria for accepting applications similarly inscrutable.

“We applied twice,” She told The Local. “The first time they only renewed our visa – no explanation as to why. We reapplied when it expired and were granted it. Seems like it’s a crapshoot and just depends on the whim of the person processing your application.”

For Jonathan in Nuremberg, the whole process was marked by a “lack of transparency” – starting with the fact that there was no available information, in English or German, about what documents would be needed during the process.

Forms for visa applications at the Foreigners' Office.

Forms for visa applications at the Foreigners’ Office. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Six weeks after sending in his application for permanent residency, his local Foreigner’s Office emailed him to inform him that he would need 10 additional documents – including a German language test and integration test that he didn’t know he’d have to take.

With his residence permit due to expire in a matter of weeks, he was left with no time at all to find hard copies of all the other documents, let alone manage the 14-week turnaround for booking and receiving results for the tests. 

“The frustration is that I could have taken these tests anytime in the past year, if I had known that I needed them,” he said.

Düsseldorf resident Dmitry, 33, also received incomplete information about the documents he needed to provide – both on the website of his local Foreigner’s Office and in an email he was sent.

“As far as I recall, no list mentioned bringing the work contract, and the contract for the flat was also required. Finally, I had to provide them translations of my degrees, despite already having provided them for my Blue Card,” he said. “In the end, it’s worth bringing everything a person can think of.”

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is my British residency title the same as permanent residency in Germany?

‘Smoother than expected’ 

For the vast majority of respondents, the sheer amount of paperwork involved in the application was the hardest thing about securing permanent residency.

Others said they had found it tricky to brush up their German skills to meet the B1 language requirement.

However, a number of people said they been pleasantly surprised by how relaxed their case workers had been and how simple the process was.

This was the case for 32 year-old Angela, who moved to Berlin from Colombia. 

“I prepared a lot of documents, but in the end all they checked was my salary and that I had contributed to the pension fund and Krankenkasse (health insurance),” she told us. “I don’t know why it was so easy for me – my intuition tells me higher income people have it easier.” 

Folders filled with documents sit on a windowsill.

Folders filled with documents sit on a windowsill. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | arifoto UG

For 39 year-old Shila, who lives in Mainz, the experience of applying for permanent residency was similarly hassle-free. After emailing the Landesamt and her local case worker, she was given an appointment and a list of documents to bring with her. 

Despite the fact that she wasn’t able to supply a language certificate, the application was a success – and her case worker even offered to talk to her in English.

“It was in 2021 in the middle of lockdown, but it was a very positive surprise to me after hearing all the bad experiences on Facebook groups,” Shila said.

The huge variation in experiences even extended to the amount of time it took for permanent residence to be granted.

While some lucky applicants managed to complete the whole thing within a month, others have waited as long as a year and a half – and in some cases are still waiting for an outcome. 

Easier with a Blue Card

Among those respondents who had an easier time, many told us they had originally come to Germany on a Blue Card – a special EU visa for skilled workers on high incomes.

Blue Card holders with basic German language skills are able to receive permanent residency after living in the country for just 33 months. Meanwhile, those with slightly more advanced skills (B1) can secure their permanent status after just 21 months.

Berlin resident Steven, 50, told us he was pleasantly surprised to find out that he’d only need an A1 language certificate, thanks to the fact that he’d been living in Germany on a Blue Card.

Others took advantage of the fast-tracked option and secured their B1 certificate in order to get a permanent residence permit after less than two years.

Adi Singh, 33, said getting a hold of permanent residence in Munich had been an incredibly smooth process – largely because he’d applied through his employer.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for citizenship or permanent residency?

With his B1 language skills, Adi was able to apply after just 21 months, and he received his card within just six months.

“I had one in-person appointment at the KVR close to the approval stage, but that was quick and short,” he said. “But they make it a point to speak to you in German, likely to establish that B1 level.”

Compared to the experience of applying for his Blue Card himself, Adi said applying via his employer had helped him avoid bureaucratic issues.

“I was fortunate to do it through my firm, and I would recommend that if your company does not apply for it for you, it is a good idea to hire an immigration firm that will do the process,” he advised. “It’s worth the time and energy saved.”

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