German integration chief plans to 'advertise' to migrants with citizenship revamp

Reem Alabali-Radovan says Germany must compete with other nations to address labour shortage

Reem Alabali-Radovan was appointed integration commissioner last month by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. EPA
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Germany’s integration chief has said she wants to advertise the country to migrants and smooth their path to citizenship, as the country looks to plug expected gaps in the workforce.

Reem Alabali-Radovan said Germany was “in competition with other countries”, such as Canada, to attract migrants with the prospect of a good life and a path to German nationality.

Concerns over worker shortages are fuelled by an ageing population in Europe’s biggest economy, with the number of working-age people projected to decline by 150,000 a year.

Germany has historically been wary of dual citizenship, with some people forced to choose only one passport when they turn 18. But the three parties which formed a coalition last month have promised to loosen these rules.

“Germany has to present itself as a modern country of immigration that offers new prospects,” Ms Alabali-Radovan, who is Secretary for Migration, Refugees and Integration in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office, told the newspaper Tagesspiegel.

She said she wanted to support ministers in "advertising Germany" to potential workers.

“I see it as my task to work towards making people here want to stay here," she said. "There’s much more to that than a work contract – we also need language courses, housing, schools and a chance to be part of society.”

Berlin’s tone contrasts with that of Britain, where Conservative ministers tout stricter migration rules as an accomplishment of Brexit, and France, where right-wing candidates are taking hard lines before April’s presidential election.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Germany after the 2015 migration crisis similarly led to a backlash on the right.

But the centre-left government that took power last month has promised to shorten the period for naturalisation to five years, instead of eight, and simplify the process of obtaining nationality.

Some migrants may be exempted from language requirements if they cannot afford lessons, while the threshold will be lowered for descendants of the mainly Turkish “guest worker” generation of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ms Alabali-Radovan said existing laws meant workers such as carers and tradespeople were facing the threat of deportation because they had only a temporary status in Germany.

“We have a shortage of skilled workers – we need them, we don’t want to deport them,” she said.

The head of Germany’s labour agency last year said the country would need 400,000 immigrants a year to fill its workforce.

Germany has separately promised to take in thousands of vulnerable Afghans, after refugees described fears and bureaucratic delays in the weeks after the Taliban took power.

Ms Alabali-Radovan, 31, is the child of Iraqi parents who left their home country after opposing former president Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Born in Moscow in the last days of the Soviet Union, she moved to Germany in 1996 and settled in the east of the country.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 11:43 AM