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

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Sir: Your analysis and reporting of the recent racial clashes in Germany portray an accurate picture of the situation. The current climate of racial hostility has a series of elements that have come together to produce an explosion of hatred.

The first element concerns the history of Germany during the 20th century. The country is haunted by its Nazi past, which means that virtually every move in the area of immigration and race is affected by this history. Liberal asylum laws have resulted in the entry of millions of refugees, but their position within the country remains very much that of second-class citizens.

Racial problems have been further aggravated in the past few years by the enormous influx of asylum- seekers and ethnic Germans from eastern Europe, which has meant that in each of the years 1990-92, more than 500,000 newcomers have entered Germany, a significant influx for a country with a population of 80 million. This wave has aggravated already existing financial and housing problems in the country.

The influx has coincided with the most severe economic recession in Germany since the end of the Second World War, caused, substantially, by re-unification, which meant, first, the collapse of the east German economy, and, now, a recession in the west.

The government's inability to act has further aggravated German racial problems. In the first place it has failed to deal with the waves of refugees entering the country from eastern Europe. The obvious solution here is a reform of EC asylum laws to function on a community- wide basis. In the absence of such a development, it seems inevitable that Germany will tighten its borders, although hopefully not as brutally as Britain and France.

The German government also has failed to act against militant neo-

Nazis and racist murderers. Linked with this, we need to view the position of a large percentage of Turks and other European immigrants in Germany: employed as low-paid labour, they are distinct from a monocultural German society that does not grant them citizenship and voting rights and launches constant racist attacks against them.

From the point of view of the Turkish population, a feeling has now developed that they can only defend themselves with violence.

Without resolute government action, this volatile racial violence seems set to continue within Germany. Mr Kohl's administration must tackle the problems of asylum (with EC partners), citizenship and attacks by racists.

Yours faithfully,


School of Arts and Humanities

De Montfort University


1 June