Mike Josef, the Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main, came from Syria to Germany at the age of four with his Aramaic Christian family. The highest proportion of citizens with an immigration history in Hesse was in Frankfurt with 47.9 percent of the population in 2022/Photo: SPD Frankfurt

Germany: From refugee child to Lord Mayor

The SPD politician Mike Josef is the new Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main. The 40-year-old received 51.7 per cent of the votes in a run-off election on Sunday, relegating his main opponent Uwe Becker (CDU) to second place. Becker received 48.3 per cent.

Josef has been the city’s head of planning and sports until now. He came from Syria to Germany at the age of four with his Aramaic Christian family and they were recognised as political refugees because they could no longer live safely in Syria as Christians. Josef is married and has two sons.

Mike Josef (pictured here 2nd from left during his campaign in the runoff to the election) came from Syria to Germany at the age of four with his Aramaic Christian family and they were recognised as political refugees/Photo: SPD Frankfurt

“My parents taught me never to become arrogant and not to forget my origins,” Josef says about himself. And on Monday he added: “The story I wrote, I don’t think it would have fit anywhere better than Frankfurt.” Frankfurt, a city of about 750,000 inhabitants, is culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse, with half of its population, and a majority of its young people, having a migrant background.

Around 510,000 voters were called to cast their ballots on Sunday, with a turnout of 35.4 per cent. In the first ballot in early March, Becker had received 34.5 per cent of the vote and Josef 24.0 per cent. For the run-off, Josef was then supported by well-known Green politicians, the Green parliamentary group as well as the Left Party and Volt. Together with these three parties, the SPD governs in Frankfurt.

Only five out of 337 mayors in Germany have a migration background, which corresponds to about 1.5 per cent. By comparison, just under 27 percent of the population have a migration background.

Felix Dappah

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