Friday, October 09, 2009

Am I back in the Democratic (Communist) Government of Germany?

Am I back in the Democratic (Communist) Government of Germany?

By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Wiesbaden

As I was reading the book, Double Home Identity: Bicultural Lives in Germany or ZWEIHEIMISCH: Bikulturell Leben in Deutschland (Band 579, BPB 2006, pp. 53-54) I came across the following quotation and realized that the current visa regulations for foreigners in Modern United Germany are in 2009 frighten-ly similar to the kinds of immigration visas one received in the DDR (the former East German State) under Erich Honaker from the 1970s onwards:

“Just as in the BRD (West Germany), the East German government needed to attract foreign labor: This was because between 1949 through 1961--when the Eastern German Barrier Wall was built--, 2.7 million residents left East Germany for settlement in West Germany, i.e. hence supporting the economic needs and development of the German society in the West. In response, East Germany initially made contracts with southeastern European states recruiting employees officially from these regional states of Communist or Socialist brothers.”

The next portion of the quotation from DOUBLE HOME IDENTITY applies a great deal to the facts on the ground with both my current visa and my wife’s visa application to enter and live in Wiesbaden in the state of Hessen this 2009.

In short, the restrictions on both my German employment visa of 2009 and my wife’s visa application in the same period are extremely reminiscent of the conditions under which foreign employees received visas in East Germany up through the 1980s.
Am I in East Germany once again?

Before the Wall came down I had visited East Berlin numerous times in the late 1980s. While there, I even met East German hooligans who were being expelled to the West because they would not stop fighting each other and beating up foreigners in their small town. (People would try any way to get out of East Germany back then.)
In the 1980s, “(t)he living and visa conditions of migrating laborers in East Germany were hardly ever discussed at all. When the matter was discussed, it was often pretended that these immigrated laborers were simply in East Germany for a short time in order to undergo temporary work training. Through 1989, therefore, some 190,000 foreigners were found to be living in East Germany on severely restricted work visas. Most of them arrived from socialist lands, for example, there were 59,000 workers from Vietnam and 15,000 from Mozambique. These laborers were in the same role, which was described in Western Germany ubiquitously under the name of ´Guest Workers´.”

“Guest workers” is a euphemism for an unwritten desire that these laborers and families who migrated to West Germany over the decades were only living in that country as “guests”—i.e. not as permanent settlers. When I myself had lived in Germany in the 1980s, there were anywhere from 2 million to 6 million such guest workers and their families in Western Germany.

“Just as in case of West Germany’s migrant `Guest Workers`, the migrant labor of East Germany was necessary but the economic appreciation of this foreign labor force was seldom publically recognized by the DDR government. Problems arose most clearly when the citizens of East Germany (fell in love with and) desired to marry such foreign-born laborers. This was very problematic because the strict emigrant labor visas rules were not only to be enforced by East Germany’s government but were a problem for East Germany’s socialist government counterparts on 4 continents. Socialist Brother states-- along with East Germany--had had signed contracts which sought to be financially beneficial to both laborer and socialist state governments. These contracted emigrant laborers in East Germany were, therefore, only sent to Germany usually on a rotation basis. These laborers would work in a certain factory for a fixed-period of time and then return home for a certain period only to reapply again. However, sometimes a laborer in very special cases was allowed to rotate to a different factory (for at least a short period of time).

Meanwhile, other state-to-state contracts, set the particular wage rates per laborer and stated exactly what portion of those earning that the particular laborer would have to pay the socialist brother land from which the employee arrived. According to the state-to-state contracts, after completion of the work period, each foreign laborer was expected to return to his or her homeland. ”

In many ways, my German employment visa has functioned similarly to that in the DDR of the 1980s. The only area that is dissimilar is that I do not have to give part of my earnings to a third party government—instead I have to repatriate my earnings to my wife in her homeland because the German government wants my wife not to emigrate here.

In short, “Reuniting families was not considered a relevant topic under these East German intra-Socialist state treaties. Foreign immigrant laborers in Eastern Germany were looked down upon and they had little to no political recognition or influence in or on the East German state. Open discussion of these laborers concerns and plights at work and living in the DDR were not topics of public discussion at all. Until the collapse of the East German state in the 1989-1990 period, these labor and visa agreements remained in effect.”

All-in-all, I find great similarities between my March 2009 (Hessen) Germany-issued employment visa, and the failure of European laws to overrule extreme (German national) restrictions on my wife being able to unite with me in Wiesbaden by October 2009.

For example:

(1) My own firm was put under pressure by the Wiesbaden (Hessen) Integration office between January and March 2009 to change my work contract and/or redo my work visa application several times before approval was given. This, in effect means, that I eventually received one of the most restricted visas that many of the German Employment Offices (Agentur fuer Arbeit) employees I have since met with have ever seen in their careers.

(2) This particular work visa restricted my work to a single employer for a period of less than 11 months, i.e. one is not eligible for either work- or employment assistance at the state or national level until one has worked a full year.

(3) Due to my restricted March 2009 visa, i.e.. which restricted my work place to two cities in Germany, the spousal visa application of my wife Maria Victoria was turned down by the same Wiesbaden (Hessen) Integration office on 23rd of June, 2009.

(4) I have now spent the last 4 months trying to reduce or change several of the restrictions in my work visa, but until now, I have not been able to overcome the wage-earning-minimum restriction (set unfairly high) to bring my wife here. This limit is enforced by the same Wiesbaden (Hessen) Integration office.

So, after working in Germany nine full months, my own wife is still abroad and the Wiesbaden (Hessen) Integration office has in the meantime taken no steps to provide family unification. They claim to act under the aegis of the German Interior Ministry. Now, because of this negative approach towards my employment and spousal visa requests and due to my own inability to get a more revised visa, it is not clear at all whether my visa will be renewed in February 2010, i.e. when it comes due again—much as was the case in the DDR, where East German visas for foreign laborers were time-limited.

In summary, 20 Years after the Berlin Wall opened up, as of 2009 the entire country of Germany has consciously chosen to emulate the (anti-foreign ideology of the DDR and) the visa restriction regulations of the DDR-era in both my own case and my wife’s case.

So, I feel I am back in the DDR.

How would you feel?



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