Germany's citizenship law likely to draw Turks to naturalization

Mon, 22 Jan 2024 7:38 GMT
A landmark dual citizenship law passed by the German federal parliament last Friday may pave the way for some 50,000 naturalization applications from citizens with Turkish roots, a community leader says.
Germany's citizenship law likely to draw Turks to naturalization

A landmark dual citizenship law passed by the German federal parliament last Friday may pave the way for some 50,000 naturalization applications from citizens with Turkish roots, a community leader says.

"And I assume that in the long term, all 1.5 million citizens of Turkish origin in Germany who do not yet have German citizenship will acquire dual citizenship," the chairperson of the community, Gökay Sofuoğlu, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), a media outlet.

The reform of the citizenship law aims to shorten the path to a German passport and allow people to hold more than one citizenship as the norm. "If word gets around about what the new law says, the number of applications for naturalization will increase continuously," Sofuoğlu said. "Many will realize that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages."

However, he said the German authorities will struggle to process the applications, pointing out, "They are already overwhelmed."

One key to the new rule is that people who obtain their German citizenship will not have to give up their citizenship from their native country. This is already true for EU residents of Germany who want German citizenship, but it was not true, until now, for others.

Germany is home to the world’s biggest Turkish community overseas, with more than 3.5 million people. Turks are the largest community of migrants in the European country. The majority of them are descendants of "guest workers" who were invited to rebuild post-war Germany.

Ending the ban on dual nationality is designed to reflect the reality of a society that has long been ethnically diverse and to attract more migrant workers. Though the Turkish diaspora was hailed for its contributions to Germany, it also has been the target of neo-Nazi attacks and politically charged criticism toward those voting for Türkiye's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). At times, international football players like Mesut Özil came under fire for simply posing for a photo with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The new law, a signature policy of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition of centrist and left-leaning parties, was adopted after a stormy debate in parliament, during which opposition legislators accused the government of devaluing citizenship and adding to the burden migration is placing on public services.

"Two passports is the most normal thing in the world in 2024 and has long been a reality in most countries," said Social Democrat legislator Reem Alabali-Radovan, born in Moscow to Iraqi Assyrian parents who gained asylum in Germany in 1996.

"We, the 20 million people of migrant background, we are staying here. This country belongs to us all, and we won't let it be taken away," she said, referring to the law, which must be signed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Citizenship will be available after five years of residence, reduced from eight, in line with neighboring countries such as France. Three years will be enough for the "exceptionally well integrated."

Dual nationality, now normally allowed only for citizens of other EU countries, will be permitted, letting tens of thousands of German-born Turks become voting members of society. Until the start of this century, Germany had one of the world's most restrictive naturalization laws, with citizenship available only to people who could show even very distant German ancestors. Progressives have long demanded a citizenship law that acknowledges the reality that Germany has been an ethnically diverse multicultural society since guest workers from Italy and Türkiye first arrived to ease labor shortages in the 1960s.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the new law was needed to compete in the global competition for skilled labor with countries like Canada and the United States. But parties are also competing to sound tougher on immigration, promising to speed deportations of illegal immigrants, in a bid to contain the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been surging in the polls amid a weak economy and frustrations over public services. The AfD, the target of angry street protests and calls for its banning after senior members were caught discussing plans to deport "unassimilated" German citizens of foreign background, opposes the law, as do the opposition conservatives, who warned against "devaluing" the German passport and importing division.

"You want to create new voters for yourselves with this law," conservative legislator Alexander Throm told coalition politicians. "But careful: Most (Turks) who live here vote for AKP and Erdoğan ... You're bringing the conflict to us."

In a video message on Friday welcoming the new citizenship law, Chancellor Scholz called planned nationwide protests against right-wing extremists this weekend "good and right."

"With the new citizenship law, we are saying to all those who have often lived and worked in Germany for decades, who abide by our laws, who are at home here: You belong to Germany," Scholz said.


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