Attacks Cloud Key Role of Germany's Foreigners despite Rising Xenophobia, Longtime Residents Are Vital to Economy

Article excerpt

GERMANY for the Germans."

Although this slogan is shouted mostly by right-wing extremists these days, it also has some basis in government policy.

"Germany is no immigration country," Chancellor Helmut Kohl insists. Indeed, this country allows no general immigration - only political asylum.

Yet, even without an immigration policy, 6 million foreigners live in Germany, some now in their third generation here, and constitute 7 percent of Germany's population. Foreign workers account for roughly 8 percent of Germany's gross national product. Most of them have no franchise to vote.

As Germany enters recession again and tries to reorient itself after unification, some Germans are making foreigners a scapegoat for their misery. There have been more than 1,800 attacks on foreigners in Germany this year, mostly against asylum-seekers, who are perceived as economic parasites.

The attacks reached crisis level on Nov. 23 when three Turks were killed by neo-Nazi fire bombs. Unlike asylum-seekers, who have been flooding the country for the last two years, the Turkish victims were part of a community that has lived here for more than 30 years.

The 1.7 million Turks in this country, while enjoying the same social benefits as Germans, have no political voice because most of them are not German citizens.

German leaders expressed outrage at the killings, which were an expression of pure hatred and could not be explained as economic jealousy. The attack also heated up a simmering debate over immigration.

Whether the government recognizes it or not, Germany already is a multicultural society, argues Georgios Tsapanos, special adviser to the government on foreigner affairs in Bonn.

"You only have to walk through Frankfurt or Cologne," Mr. Tsapanos says. "You are blind if you don't notice that 40 years have brought foreigners to Germany and that those foreigners have also changed Germany."

Increasingly, politicians are favoring developing an immigration policy, though most people here say it is not likely to come about under a Kohl government.

President Richard von Weizsacker has been boosting the idea for a year. The opposition Social Democrats endorsed an immigration policy at their party congress Nov. 16 and 17.

Some leaders contemplate a system to separate the truly politically persecuted from simple immigrants. Most of the asylum-seekers surging into Germany (about 500,000 this year) were economic immigrants seeking a better life. Less than 5 percent are actually granted political asylum. …


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