If the settlement permit fails due to a housing requirement …

By Qoutayba Abboud and Michael Seifert

Refugees who came to Germany in 2015 or 2016 can now obtain a settlement permit and thus permanent residence. This is a solidification of residence and represents the first step towards obtaining German citizenship for many. Important prerequisites for this are good German language skills, securing a livelihood through work and contributions to German pension insurance. Another issue, housing regulations, is currently causing problems for some refugees in the city and the district of Tübingen. tünews INTERNATIONAL has been informed of several cases in which settlement permits were rejected for this reason.

The Residence Act states that an applicant must have “sufficient living space for themselves and the family members living with them in a domestic community”. Originally, this meant that there had to be 12 square meters per person, less for children.

Since June 2021, a decree issued by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Justice has stipulated that “connecting accommodation” provided by municipalities and cities for refugees is generally not considered sufficient living space. In justification, a letter to all foreigners authorities states: “The legal requirements provided (for a settlement permit) are an expression of the special integration in Germany of the foreigner who is to be granted such an unlimited right of residence, because they are expected to integrate further into German living conditions if the requirements are met. If the person in question has not been able to rent housing independently, it cannot be assumed that this special integration has been achieved to a sufficient degree.”

Hamad, a Syrian doctor who came to Germany in mid-2015, is also affected by this. He lives with his family in Tübingen and has been working for two years in a hospital in Balingen, where he has a permanent contract. Already in his first year in Germany, he passed the C 1 language exam, the highest level. Hamad also worked as a volunteer at the deaconry for three years, helping new refugees as a translator. Hamad applied for a settlement permit at the Foreigners’ Registration Office in Tübingen six months ago. However, his application was rejected because he lives with his family in a municipal follow-up accommodation.

This also applies to Samer (name changed by the editorial team), a 24-year-old Syrian. He came to Germany in 2016 and has a permanent employment contract with a security services company. From the beginning, he made great efforts to learn the German language and soon successfully completed the integration course. “I have many German friends and a very good relationship with my colleagues and my boss. He says I do my job very well”, Samer reports. He also tried to obtain a permanent residence permit, but his application was also rejected for the same reason. The editorial team is aware of other similar cases.

Hamad and Samer have tried to find other accommodation, but in Tübingen finding housing is very difficult. Therefore, they say, “We find it very unfair that our applications were rejected, even though we meet all the other conditions.”

An inquiry at PRO ASYL in Frankfurt revealed that this might only be a problem in Baden-Württemberg: they are not aware of such cases from other federal states. Andreas Linder, who offers advice on settlement permits for the Tübingen-based Plan B initiative, considers the housing requirement to be very high in view of the prevailing housing shortage. He suggests discussing the problem at the level of cities and municipalities in terms of local politics and tackling it constructively.

In the city of Tübingen, a possible solution is already emerging: Refugees who live in follow-up housing and are not dependent on social benefits due to employment can pay a reduced user fee for the living space. After two years, they can then receive a regular rental contract, which is required for a settlement permit. However, this must be clarified on a case-by-case basis. This information was

obtained by tünews INTERNATIONAL from the head of the department of assistance for refugees, Monika Jaroch-Völker. She says: “Due to the great housing shortage, the city of Tübingen has created decentralized good housing for refugees through new construction. We see it as our duty to enable these people to live independently and thus promote their integration.”

There are also municipalities in the Tübingen district that initially rent housing from private landlords to accommodate refugees. Later, the municipal administrations hand over these apartments to the refugees, who then sign a rental agreement with the landlords.

Refugees who think they meet the requirements for a settlement permit should seek advice from Plan B, for example. A fact sheet explains the most important regulations and also includes contact information: 2021-10-01_info_niederlassungserlaubnis_en.pdf (planb.social).

For questions about the housing regulations for the settlement permit, you can contact the city of Tübingen at: Sarina Bernhardt, Team Leader Housing Administration, phone 07071 204-1763, e-mail: sarina.bernhardt@tuebingen.de

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Tübingen: Anschlussunterbringung im Breiten Weg. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Mostafa Elyasian.

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