Desis in Deutschland / 'Foreigner Policy' and Applied Law in Germany

4.2. Development politics

The main issue in Dr. Agarwal's case brought forward by the official side were the interests of development politics. Politics and administration argued, and still do so, that students from developing countries were welcomed in the country and provided with scholarships as a part of development aid for their countries of origin and that Germany's obligation is to prevent brain drain from the latter by all means. Accordingly, the EinbürgRiLi were drafted in a way which prohibits the naturalisation of any citizen from a developing country, independent of the reason for which he or she came to Germany, and requires in the scarce exceptions of this rule the repayment of all received money. This was the intent of the rules in the beginning of the 70s and that has not been changed until 1998.

Such general statements about development aid which do not take into account the particular circumstances of the case are, however, somewhat questionable. It is thus necessary to investigate whether the actions and rules of the German administration really seem to operate in favour of development politics and doing so several issues have to be looked into.

Firstly, it is not quite as obvious as the German state wants to depict it that the South Asian students, as well as their fellows from other developing countries, came to Germany in order to eventually help their country of origin. When they came in the 50s and 60s the German economy, in fact, experienced a severe shortage of labour, both unskilled and skilled, and it was thus in the interest of Germany to get as many employees from abroad as possible. This was certainly one of the reasons why the students were welcomed and is well illustrated by the ease with which they initially got employments after graduation. Furthermore, the students themselves did not necessarily perceive themselves as being part of a development aid project; they had come for private reasons and with individually different future plans which did not necessarily include a return to their home country. They chose their field of study themselves without being obliged to take into account the development needs of their countries of origin. In fact, in the case of India it is somewhat questionable whether, given its good higher education system and its high rate of unemployment among academics, there was at all a need for Indians to obtain university degrees abroad, especially if they were not tailor made for development purposes.

This leads to the second major inconsistency in the development politics as expressed in the case. It seems hardly credible that development aid can be given without a consideration of the particular circumstances and needs of the country which is supposed to receive it. The persistence with which Dr. Agarwal's attempts to refer to the interests of his home country in the specific case, like those of applicants in other cases, are ignored illustrates how little the administration seems to be really interested in that country. This shows also, in the general statement that no citizen of a developing country should be naturalised at all, independent of his or her personal situation and ability to be of benefit to the country of origin. The focus of the law is clearly on the exclusion of the students from Germany and not on their inclusion in the developing country.

The line of reasoning, thirdly, does not take into account at all that the migrant's return to his or her country of origin might not be necessary for efficient development aid. Transfers of income to the family back home are also a source for further development. They enable family members to get a better education in the home country or setting up a business there. The developing country might, thus, be much more interested in establishing a diaspora of well educated and situated men and women in an industrial country who can send back resources and act as a bridge for trade and investment, and not have to face the trouble of integrating Western educated academics in an already tense labour market.

Even if the return to the country of origin was an end in itself its likelihood, fourthly, does not closely relate to the citizenship of the migrant. Most of the South Asians and other applicants from developing countries who want to become German citizens have already stayed in the country for a considerable amount of time and have established themselves well within it. In fact, it is this circumstance which makes many want to change their citizenship in order to have all citizens's rights in their country of residence. Most of the student migrants of this category have an indeterminate permit to stay in Germany and the state, accordingly, has hardly any possibility to force them to return to their country of origin. Thus the aim of development aid, if it was the return, has already been failed to achieve and it does not really matter whether the migrants will be naturalised or not. One might even argue that development aid through these former students is more likely if they become German citizens. In that case, they can return to their country of origin and work there for a period without worrying about their permit to stay in Germany. They are thus much more flexible and able to benefit the developing country once they are German.

Finally, it has to be asked what intention lies behind the demand for repayment of scholarships. If those are paid back this certainly does not give back to the state all the investment into the human capital of the foreign students and accordingly falls far short of the money supposedly earmarked for development aid. The feasible repayments, while being of considerable cost for the migrants, can at the most be a trickle with little impact on the state's development budget, if it ever reaches that at all. In none of the documents it is actually stated who will be the recipient of the repayments and it is thus far from clear that it will actually be used to the benefit of developing countries. In fact, it seems much more likely that the administrative costs of demanding the scholarships back and facing court trials will cause so much government spending that any positive budget effect is improbable. Accordingly, the financial effect of this rule lies solely on the applicant's side and its major effect will not be to benefit development politics but to deter applications for naturalisation. It is thus again an exclusionary and not a constructive regulation.

This discussion shows that if the rules were made at all for development politics issues they have not been thought through well enough. Their aim might be to give some pretence of caring for developing countries on the side of the German state, more likely, however, they are in line with another agenda, with wanting to preserve the idea of Germany being no Einwanderungsland. This is also illustrated by the fact that only the Ministry of the Interior is involved and not the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The use of the citizenship law for aims of foreigner policy will be discussed further in a later section, after some other features of Dr. Agarwal's case have been investigated.

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© Urmila Goel, / englishDesis in Deutschland/ Recht/ naturalisation 1998/2004