Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Germany

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 1 July 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Germany, 1 July 2010, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

'Much has been achieved in the fight against racism in Germany over the past few years. Yet much still needs to be done,' concluded Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance during his 10-day visit to the country in July 2009. In a statement issued in Berlin, the UN Special Rapporteur emphasized that Germany needs to broaden its concept of racism from one associated only with right-wing extremists to one that also encompasses the discrimination and harassment occurring in everyday life, particularly towards migrants. Thus, Germany has to step up its efforts to integrate its migrant population.

The gap in the educational achievements of migrant pupils and of native Germans remains significant and is steadily increasing. Poverty, other socio-economic hurdles, plus a migrant background reduce the educational opportunities of migrant children, and differences remain in place even between children of the same general socio-economic background. At the same time, young people with a migrant background have considerably fewer chances to enter further education and vocational and professional training than their German counterparts. This trend is confirmed by the 2009 country report of the CoE's ECRI, which also notes that some teachers reportedly display discriminatory attitudes in the classroom, in particular towards Turkish and Muslim children.

In 2008, the first court decisions within the context of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) were taken. The AGG came into force on 18 August 2006; it implements the EU's equal treatment directives and extends protection against discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation to public employment and a number of private law fields. In 2009, however, ENAR members raised concerns that neither the AGG nor the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency are providing effective protection for victims of discrimination and that the latter fails to meet its obligations adequately.

In its 2009 report, ECRI noted positive developments, such as a number of government measures to eliminate inequalities or discrimination in the fields of employment and education, including efforts to promote and foster the linguistic abilities of children. However, ECRI also expressed concerns over some aspects of the AGG, in particular regarding housing. The report confirms human rights groups' concerns about the limited knowledge of potential victims about their rights under the AGG, and emphasizes that the Act's effectiveness is hampered by the two-month time-limit for initiating a complaint. According to the report, the latter issue is compounded by the limited role afforded to NGOs under the law. According to the ECRI 2009 report, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, with its small staff and annual budget, appears to have relatively few resources to carry out its statutory tasks.

Germany's repatriation policies for members of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian (RAE) minority communities to Kosovo prompted CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as minority rights organizations such as MRG and the Kosovo-based Roma and Ashkalia Documentation Centre (RAD), to investigate the state of minorities forcibly returned to Kosovo from Germany. Among the countries that have readmission agreements with Kosovo concerning the forced repatriation of members of the RAE communities to their country of origin (including Austria, Sweden and Switzerland) Germany, with the majority of RAE refugees living in the country, is the biggest sender. From 1999 until the end of August 2009, there were 92,240 voluntary returns and 21,852 forcible returns. The UNHCR confirmed in a report in November 2009 that the situation of minority communities in Kosovo is precarious, and that 'respect for minority rights continues be the most significant human rights issue in Kosovo in the post-independence era'. The social, political and economic exclusion of Kosovo's minorities is a remaining issue, and after attacks on Roma by Kosovo Albanians in September 2009, the CoE's Committee of Experts on Roma and Travellers called on states to consider granting asylum to members of the Kosovo Roma community. Referring to the UNHCR report and his own repeated visits to Kosovo in March and July 2009, Hammarberg sent a letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, in December 2009, urging the German government to halt forcible returns, in particular of Roma.

The ultra right-wing remains a serious problem in Germany. 'Germany for Germans!' and similar slogans are frequently heard at rallies all over Germany. Moreover, national socialism appears to have support beyond those who appear in public demonstrations. According to an annual report published in May 2009 by Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, there are nearly 5,000 militant neo-Nazis, while 30,000 Germans consider themselves as having extreme right-wing views.

However, far-right parties have suffered a sharp decline in votes in the 2009 national elections compared to four years ago. The two prominent far-right parties, the National Democratic Party and the German People's Union between them won support from 681,000 voters, well down from the 858,000 who voted for them in 2005 when the parties entered into an electoral pact. The outcome meant that only 1.5 per cent of the 44 million Germans who turned out to vote in 2009 supported the extreme right parties, although in some states, such as Saxony, support for the NDP reached 4 per cent.

Support for Islam to be granted the same legal status as Christianity and other recognized religions is growing in the country and is being actively discussed by the main political parties. The Green Party expressed its support for taking concrete steps in this direction. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of the Conservative Christian Democratic Union has said that this is his long-term aim, but also stated that Muslim communities are still some way from meeting the requirements that have to be fulfilled under the German Constitution, including the ability to provide teachers to educate children enrolled in state schools about their faith. The creation of the German Islam Conference (DIK) could be an important symbol of change. The goal of the Conference is to ensure better integration of Muslims and to promote inclusive communities by counteracting segregation and preventing extremism.

Two prominent court cases in 2009 helped to highlight racism and hate-motivated crimes. A German man was sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of a pregnant headscarved Egyptian woman, Marwa El-Sherbini. The killing sparked outrage in Sherbini's home country and led to renewed debates about Islamophobia in Germany.

The trial of the 89-year-old John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born Soviet prisoner of war who joined the SS as a concentration camp guard during the Second World War, was widely seen as breaking new ground. In the decades following the war, the German authorities prosecuted only top leaders of the Nazi regime for the Holocaust. Guards and others working in the concentration camps were seen as acting under command and thus had limited culpability.

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