July 2023 | Parliament passes immigration law to attract skilled labour
In a major shift in Germany’s policy, the parliament passed a new immigration law that creates opportunities for non-EU citizens wishing to work in Germany, as well as for refugees already in the country. Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house, gave the final approval in July. The legislation aims at attracting skilled labour in order to target the current shortage deemed as slowing the economy’s growth by turning Germany into a more immigration-friendly country. The law reduces restrictions and bureaucratic bottlenecks for applicants, lowering eligibility criteria for Blue Card work visas, and introducing the “opportunity card” (Canada-style points-based system) that will be awarded to applicants who meet certain requirements to go to Germany for a year to find employment. Refugees who applied for asylum by 29 March, as well as those on a tourist visa will also be allowed to join the labour market under specific conditions. All three coalition parties voted for the legislation. The centre-right CDU/CSU parties and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) voted against, while the left-leaning Linke abstained.
May 2023 | Federal government increases financial support for refugees
The federal government has agreed to the states’ demands for increased financial support in dealing with the growing number of refugees. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's administration will raise the lump sum provided to the 16 states by EUR 1 billion for 2023. However, the demand for a EUR 1,000 lump sum payment per refugee was not accepted by the federal government. The agreement also included the modernization of IT systems to accelerate asylum applications. Although the agreement shows some progress, a long-term funding agreement has not been reached, and a decision is expected to be taken in November.
February 2023 | Police use of surveillance software ruled unconstitutional
The use of Palantir surveillance software by police in Hesse and Hamburg was ruled unconstitutional. The system relied on data from intelligence agencies, allowing police in Hesse and Hamburg to process personal data to prevent crime, and was contested by the German Society for Civil Rights, who brought the case to the court. The group claimed that the software used people's data to provide leads and could also create errors, as well as prompt risk of police discrimination. A court statement defined the provisions as violation of the right to informational self-determination. As a result, the state of Hesse has until 30 September to modify the provisions, while in Hamburg the legislation was nullified as the technology was not in use yet. The court ruling aligned with the request from the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency to test artificial intelligence algorithms used in predictive policing to avoid discrimination biases.
January 2023 | Climate activists protest the demolition of Lützerath
The agreement between the German Government and the RWE energy company to expand the open-cast mine in Lützerath sparked protests of around 35,000 people, including the Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who was arrested on 17 January. The activists allege that the village demolition will result in an increase in harmful gas emissions. Following the court order for eviction, police began clearing protesters, evicting the last one on 17 January. The police intervention led to clashes, and the activists denounced the excessive use of violence by the police. The police and federal Interior Minister Nancy Faesar have instead accused the activists of using violence.