Letter: Restrictions on citizenship form the basis of racial discrimination in Germany

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The Independent Online
Sir: Although your leading article 'Legacy of Germany's past' (1 June) touches the raw nerve of the Germans, it does not deal with either the intransigent attitude of the present German government or the fundamental flaws in the demographic and socio-economic status of minorities in Germany.

In our meeting with officials from the interior ministry of the German government in Bonn on 20 April, we pointed out that the legal framework itself may be considered discriminatory. Only those German minority groups who are citizens are deemed to belong to a recognised minority group, including 95 per cent of the Danes and one-third of the Jewish population.

The almost 100,000 Sorbs now living in the former East Germany were granted a special minority status under the German unification agreement, which included protection of their right to use their own language. They do not, however, have political representation on a national level.

The Sinti and Roma, numbering about 50,000 and 60,000, experience the most discrimination of the recognised German minorities. They were considered peoples in the 1989 International Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report, but not as having the same rights as Danes and Sorbs. Germans of African origin, estimated at 20,000, also endure discriminatory treatment.

Germany's legal system is based on the principle of equality of citizens. The official position is that Germany is not an immigrant country, although it has more than 6 million immigrants, the majority of whom are migrants and refugees with alien status. As non-citizens, they are not considered part of the state population, which results in their exclusion from consideration in Germany's periodic report to international human rights bodies. The German government also denies the existence of widespread racial discrimination and xenophobia, rendering special anti-discrimination legislation unnecessary.

In our meeting, we also proposed that the word 'foreigners' should not be used to describe the migrant community settled in Germany and that dual nationality should be accorded to all 'foreigners'.

Yours faithfully,

TARA MUKHERJEE

President

Forum des migrants des

Communite European

Brussels

1 June

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