A local-based lawyer will meet with Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung later this month to advocate for foreigners who, when trying to live and work locally, have faced obstacles from public administration.
“I will have my first meetings with the mayor of Leipzig in two weeks discussing the problematic attitude and policy especially of the immigration office towards foreigners,” lawyer Isabel Fernández de Castillejo, of the firm Trans&Law, wrote on the “Leipzig Expats” Facebook group. A number of clients have sought out Castillejo when running into visa-related issues with the Ausländerbehörde.
Castillejo has offered for foreigners to email their stories to email@example.com, to be taken to the mayor as examples.
Problems hiring foreigners
In recent months, freelance English teachers and their loved ones have shared stories with LeipGlo regarding lack of information, hefty fines related to the pension fund, and having to jump through nearly impossible hoops to renew their visas. But the issues are not only limited to this profession.
The fact that 27 companies, from various sectors, exhibited at the LeipGlo Job Fair in November 2018 is a strong indication that they’re willing to hire foreigners in the Leipzig area. However, the hiring process itself can be difficult due to local authorities’ unwillingness to cooperate, according to an open letter from Wordcraft to Mayor Jung.
The Leipzig company shared the open letter on startup online channels and with media. LeipGlo published the letter on 18 January 2019, followed by the local newspaper LVZ on 3 February.
“As we see it, the major problem is the visa process, which does not seem to be clearly regulated by law in Germany and is associated with anxiety, uncertainty and discomfort for our prospective and current employees,” the open letter says. “It is not unusual that employees and freelancers leave Leipzig to other cities or other countries because of a warmer welcome elsewhere.”
Years ago, we dismissed these experiences as isolated cases; however, we now have to admit that integrating qualified foreigners into the German labor market is undermined and sometimes even torpedoed by public authorities and lack of regulations.
A movement takes off
Social media announcements of the letter’s publication drew a great volume of response from foreigners living in the Leipzig area, with many saying they could relate with the problems discussed. Parallel with the letter and efforts of lawyer Castillejo as an advocate with the mayor, a grassroots movement has begun, collecting cases as a first step.
Local-based foreigners have shared a form online where people can relate their experiences anonymously.
“If we all write our various stories, it will be a solid database, esp. for lawyers and other people fighting on our behalf,” says a related post on the “Accidental Helden” Facebook group. “Also, the added plus is that we are able to be anonymous. We must be heard. Go for it.”
Leipzig is likely to hit the mark of 600,000 residents this year. The amount of foreigners or naturalized citizens living in the East German city has grown to almost 15 percent, or around 90,000.