Yazidi men stand outside the Reichstag where colleagues of theirs are a week into a hunger strike in a tent nearby in an effort to prevent their deportation to Iraq on October 17, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Germany approves easing of citizenship rules


Legislators in Germany have voted to loosen citizenship laws.

The country’s ‘traffic-light’ coalition Government passed its centrepiece bill to relax citizenship and naturalisation legislation on January 19.

The majority of MPs agreed to lift the language barrier for those over 67 years old, relax residency requirements and allow dual nationality, which could apply to a large segments of the populace. Additionally, the bill shortens the time required to meet naturalisation requirements.

The softening of naturalisation and dual citizenship rules comes amid increasing public hostility towards mass immigration.

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the newly formed Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW), migration sceptic parties on the respective Right and Left of the political spectrum, are soaring in the polls.

Instead of the current eight or six years, the new law will provide citizenship after five years in Germany, or three in the event of “special integration accomplishments”.

Additionally, instead of eight years, children born in Germany will automatically become citizens if one parent has been a “lawful resident” for five years.

The limitations on possessing dual citizenship will, likewise, be removed.

Most citizens of nations other than those in the European Union and Switzerland are currently required to renounce their former nationality upon obtaining German citizenship, some exemptions notwithstanding.

According to the German authorities, the change will “support immigrant assimilation and help in attracting more skilled labour”.

Regarding the poll, of the 639 votes cast, there were 382 in favour and 234 against with 23 abstentions.

All three of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s parties – the Social Democrats, Greens and the Free Democrats – voted in favour, while MPs from the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU), Christian Social Union and hard-right AfD voted against the bill.

Alexander Throm, a CDU lawmaker and opponent of the dual-nationality legislation, described the citizenship liberalisation initiative as: “The law with the most wide-reaching negative consequences for our country.”

Throm accused the Government of trying to “generate a new electorate” by allowing “foreign” people to vote while “devaluing” German citizenship.

Socialists, on the other hand, accused the Christian Democrats of having “racist” motives, as its members argued the main beneficiaries of the change would be Turkish citizens.

Reem Alabali-Radovan, the Government’s commissioner for migration, refugees and integration, referred to a recent incident where AfD members had attended a “covert conference” in Brandenburg with alleged radical right-wingers.

“Last week, at the very latest, it should have been abundantly clear to everyone that there are forces, also in this Parliament, who want to get rid of this Germany, who want to sort people according to a racist ideology,” she said.

Green MP Filiz Polat, one of the rapporteurs who assisted in drafting the legislation, called the bill a “significant step for our democracy”.

“The reform will enable more people who live here permanently to participate practically in life in our country,” Polat told news outlet The Local.

“The new citizenship law therefore also means more democracy for Germany.”

The Government claims 14 per cent of the population, or more than 12 million of the 84.4 million people living in the nation, are not citizens of Germany and 5.3 million of those people have been residents for at least 10 years.

That suggests a naturalisation rate significantly lower than the European Union average.

Across Europe, many countries are struggling with the issue of dual nationality and, in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and France, parties are suggesting ditching the status.

The CDU had tried to amend the bill with several adaptations. It proposed including provisions for denying citizenship to anyone who had not been employed full-time in the country for at least two years prior to naturalisation.

The AfD said that two-thirds of Germans did not want naturalisation to be simplified and declared the proposals a “sell-out of the citizenship”.

The Federal Council for Integration (BZI) said that, as the bill installed tougher rules on foreigners claiming benefits, it left a “bitter aftertaste”.

“The new regulation is more restrictive and creates additional access hurdles for people who are already structurally disadvantaged – for example, when looking for work,” said BZI Chairman Memet Kilic.

“Furthermore, linking naturalisation to income contradicts our basic democratic principles of equal participation.”

If the Bundesrat, or Federal Council, approves the bill, deemed by many as a formality, it will become law in April or May.

Asylum seekers and migration has been a pressing issue for the Government, which has been beset by internal strife and economic problems.