Dolls for children in a department store in Berlin. The bill will tighten the regulations on paternity if one of the parents is a foreigner without regular residency rights in Germany/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

German government to tighten regulations on recognition of paternity

When government recognises paternity it grants right of residence in Germany to a foreign parent. This is the case when a woman without regular residency rights gives birth to a child and a man who has a German nationality or long-term residence permit in Germany is acknowledged as the father, the mother and child are granted regular residence permit. The same rule applies when a mother who is German or has a long-term residence status gives birth and brings forward a foreigner as the father, he will be granted residence permit.

Therefore, paternity provides a pathway to regular residency to foreigners without regular residence permit, such as asylum-seekers or refugees.

The German government fears that the paternity regulation is being abused and has presented a draft law which it says is intended to prevent this abuse. The recognition of paternity with foreign parties is to be more strictly controlled in future.

On Wednesday, the Federal Cabinet in Berlin presented a draft legislation to better prevent so-called abusive paternity acknowledgements. The current rules to prevent this abuse are not effective enough, the government argued.

Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) explained that the bill when passed into law by the federal parliament will put a stop to deception and abuse of the law in order to obtain a right of residence in Germany. Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) said that the planned change in the law was an example of a “new realpolitik in migration”. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice jointly drafted the bill.

According to the draft of the law, the approval of the foreigners authority will be required to recognise paternity if the father or mother has German citizenship or a secure right of residence, but the partner only has a temporary right of residence or a tolerated stay. Consent should be refused if abuse is suspected, for example, because the alleged parents have only recently met or the alleged father has already recognised the paternity of children without German citizenship several times.

Conversely, consent should be granted if, among other things, a paternity test is available, the parents have been living together for at least six months or have married after the birth of the child.

The draft also provides that if the authorities find out after consent has been granted that their decision was based on false information provided by the applicants or that employees of the immigration authorities were threatened or bribed, consent can also be withdrawn retrospectively within a five-year period. Paternity would then be cancelled retroactively.

The current regulation stipulates that the authorities that certify paternity, such as a notary or the youth welfare office, suspend recognition in the event of suspected abuse. However, the Federal Ministry of the Interior says that this control mechanism is not effective.

The Association of Binational Families and Partnerships (iaf) has criticised the proposed tightening of the law on paternity. From a human rights perspective, a tightening of the law to this extent seems “very questionable” in view of the low number of cases, according to a protest letter of the association to the two ministries that jointly drafted the bill. With the equivalent of 73 cases per year, it would be “disproportionate to place such a large population group under general suspicion”, iaf said.

The iaf sees the law as “clear discrimination against people with a history of migration based on their residence status”. “The current migration discourse, which has exclusively negative connotations, seems to have been the inspiration for this draft bill,” the iaf said.

The draft legislation will only become law after it has been passed by the federal parliament.

Felix Dappah

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