Germany is considering changes to its controversial new immigration law concerning Jews from the former Soviet Union, but Jewish leaders will be consulted over any move, the country’s interior minister said. Otto Schily’s statement Friday was designed to head off criticism of the new law, which took effect Jan. 1, from the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Schily said talks with the Central Council will continue on the law, which is expected to restrict Jewish immigration to Germany from the former Soviet Union.
Schily also accused unnamed individuals of trying to sow ill will between the ministry and the Central Council, which has questioned aspects of the new law.
The Central Council said it first learned details of the new law on Dec. 13. The law, presented as a response to Germany’s struggling economy, restricts immigration to economically secure people under age 45 with a basic knowledge of German.
In addition, Jewish applicants from the former Soviet Union must obtain a certificate from a synagogue in Germany affirming that they would be accepted into the community.
The rules are not yet set in stone, Schily said. He promised that the Central Council, which represents some 105,000 Jews in Germany, would be included in talks on any changes.
The Conference of Interior Ministers of German states is continuing to discuss the matter, which it must decide. The German Parliament’s committee for internal affairs also will discuss the issue Jan. 19.
On Dec. 20, the council’s president, Paul Spiegel, called aspects of the law “completely unacceptable.” He expressed concern for 27,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who have been waiting, some more than six years, for their applications to be processed.
The Interior Ministry enacted a temporary regulation Dec. 29 granting entry to those who had received official invitations by Jan. 1 under the former “contingency refugee” regulations for ex-Soviet Jews.
Last Friday, the Interior Minister announced that new regulations would be developed for applicants still waiting for an answer, or those who wish to apply.
The “goal is to strengthen and ease their integration” in Jewish communities and in Germany, Schily said, adding that he expected the cooperative relationship with the Central Council to continue despite the need to solve difficult problems.
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, said he had no problem with an immigration law that discouraged Jews in the former Soviet Union from coming to Germany. He told the German newspaper Freies Wort that the new rules were in keeping with the Israeli position, according to which there are no Jewish refugees since all Jews have a homeland in Israel.
Israel has been embarrassed that in recent years more former Soviet Jews have moved to Germany than to Israel, which offers them less in welfare benefits. But Stein said he respected the decision of some Jews to move to Germany.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.