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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU Slaps at Germany on Immigration Issues

(CN) - Two advisers to the EU's highest court swiped at Germany on Wednesday for its handling of deportees and the language requirements prospective immigrants face.

If a third-country national who has overstayed his visas and faces deportation faces detention, EU law requires that such detention occur in the least coercive way possible, in a specialized facility. Prison is only an option in exceptional circumstances, and the immigrants must be kept separated from the rest of the prison population.

Germany tasks its individual states with detaining undocumented immigrants prior to deportation, but 10 of the 16 German states did not have specialized facilities for immigrants and were using prisons to house them - often subjecting detainees to the same rules and conditions that ordinary prisoners face.

This prompted lawsuits by three immigrants who balked at their imprisonment. Though a Syrian woman and a Vietnamese woman reported being held with the regular prison population, a Moroccan man who was separated from the other inmates objected to being held in prison at all.

Two German courts invited the European Court of Justice to clarify the EU's position on the conditions immigrants awaiting deportation must face, in light of Germany's structure of states' rights in the matter.

In his opinion for the Luxembourg-based EU high court, Advocate General Yves Bot criticized Germany for relying on a lack of specialized facilities to justify imprisoning undocumented aliens. Emphasizing that prisons may be used only in emergency situations, Bot said the German translation of the EU law in question clouded the issue of what constitutes an emergency.

Here, Germany also broke EU law by detaining the two women with other the other prisoners, according to the opinion, which is not available in English. The adviser said it did not matter that the Vietnamese national allegedly agreed to be placed in the general prison population.

Human dignity and rights necessitate better treatment for undocumented immigrants than prisoners serving out a criminal sentence, Bot concluded.

In a separate Wednesday opinion Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi lambasted a requirement that immigrants seeking a residence permit to reunite with their families in Germany demonstrate an ability to speak and write basic German.

The case involves a Turkish woman who has been trying to join her husband in Germany for more than four years. A German embassy official in Ankara recently rejected her application after finding her to be illiterate and therefore unable to communicate in German.

In his opinion for the EU high court, Mengozzi noted that an association agreement between the EU and Turkey dating back to the 1970s prohibits the application of new laws - such as the language requirement, which German lawmakers passed in 2007 -to Turkish nationals living legally in the EU.

Doing so in this case would prevent family reunification, a top constitutional priority for the EU, Mengozzi said. And although Germany said that the language-proficiency requirement helps combat forced marriages, Mengozzi called the requirement "disproportionate on any basis" because it prevents family reunification indefinitely.

The language-proficiency law also impedes the husband's freedom of establishment, since it forces him to choose between his life and business in Germany and returning to Turkey to be with his wife, according to the opinion. Given that, the wife has additional ammunition to object to the requirement being imposed on her, Mengozzi concluded. His opinion was not made available in English either.

The advisers' opinions are not binding on the Court of Justice, which has begun its own deliberations in the cases.

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