Around every fifth day, the Jesuit Refugee Service makes an application to the Berlin Senate. Then a commission has to decide whether an immigrant can stay. The law says: “urgent humanitarian or personal reasons” must “justify a further stay of the foreigner on federal territory”. In cases of hardship, people can stay – if the Interior Minister approves.
Nobody knows how many undocumented people live in Germany and Europe. For that reason our investigation is called “The Invisibles”. Dita Vogel, an academic at the University of Bremen, conducted a study several years ago that sought to determine the number of Invisibles. Her conclusion: hundreds of thousands of people are not allowed to be in Germany – and millions in Europe.
In Nurnberg, Renate Scheunemann fulfills a mandate from high up: the mayor Ulrich Maly (Social Democrats) once decided that a working group on “People without health insurance” should be established. Scheunemann, a doctor at the Nurnberg health authority, was appointed as director of the working group.
Why can people not freely enter our country? The Germany residency law does not justify this. The migration researcher Norbert Cyrus says that closing borders goes against individual liberty. But he also says: states are allowed to limit migration if they have concrete reasons.
Eight years ago, the European Union had not yet closed off its outside borders with high fences, infrared cameras, satellites and drones. Even then, Maren Wilmes thought that closing the borders was wrong. This exacerbates illegal immigration, she wrote in her study entitled “Undocumented People in Cologne”.
The goal is July 10th. Then the German government will make a decision about everyone who is tolerated in Germany. These are people who were refused the right of residency, but cannot be deported. On July 10th, the upper house of the German Parliament will discuss the draft bill on “Residency Law and Residency Termination”.
Undocumented people who live in Germany depend on individuals’ good will. On people such as the social worker Golde Ebding who works with the Maltese Migrant Medicine in Berlin. There she supports people who count as illegal. Last year she founded the project “Refugees Welcome” with friends. Via the internet, it houses refugees in shared apartments.
Café 104 is in the middle of the city, between Hohenzollernplatz and the Central Station. It is a place of support for people living in illegality according to the residency law. This is a meeting place for people who are not permitted to be here. Not in Munich, not in Germany.
Undocumented people living in Germany have given up all their rights – in the hope for a better life. That makes many things difficult: employment, their children’s education or health care. They live with the constant fear of discovery and deportation. Hundreds of thousands of people live like this in Germany. Soon, a new law could push even more people into illegality.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented people live in Germany. The academic Dita Vogel estimates their number at up to half a million. That is greater than the number of people who visit the stadiums on a German Bundesliga match day. They all live without basic rights, work off the books and have no health insurance or pension plan.
If you enter a country without permission, your first step across the border makes you count as illegal. And it stays that way if you never register with the authorities. Follow the story of a Nigerian woman who came to Germany by boat.
If you request asylum in Germany you must be prepared to wait. First you register with the immigration authorities. Where are you from? Why are you seeking refuge in Germany? Then they decide whether you can stay – but that can take a long time. Half a year, a year, or longer. If they reject your application you have to leave the country. Follow the story of a young man from Pakistan who waited over two years for his decision.