German government permits Afghan refugees to bring second wives to country despite polygamy laws

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Afghan nationals who worked with the German army during the military operation in the country have had requests to bring their second wives and children to Germany approved, a move that is posing complex legal problems.

Afghan employees of the Bundeswehr were granted visas to reside in Germany following the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and family reunification laws enabled the employees to bring their spouses and children with them.

However, the German newspaper Westfalenpost reported that in at least two known instances, subsequent reunification requests were approved to bring further spouses and children. This was confirmed by the local immigration office in the Hochsauerland district.

In one instance, the husband is living with one wife and three children while the second wife lives in a separate apartment nearby with another seven children.

Another husband is understood to be living with both his wives and nine shared children.

While polygamy is illegal in Germany, there are extenuating circumstances if the marriages have been concluded in compliance with foreign laws. The practice is widely accepted in a number of Islamic countries; however, it still creates certain legal problems in relation to citizenship. Specifically, one of the former Bundeswehr employee’s children was born in Germany but has been unable to obtain a German birth certificate because her parents’ marriage is not recognized in Germany.

This issue is something that could become more frequent after the federal government relaxed family reunification laws.

Germany issued an increased number of visas last year for the purpose of reuniting spouses of foreign nationals. A total of 71,129 visas were granted; Indians and Turks received the highest number of approved requests with 8,930 and 8,778 cases, respectively.

The figure could have been much higher had 13,607 people hoping to join their spouses not failed to pass the language requirement test.

Germany has bucked the recent European trend towards more restrictive immigration measures with its liberal coalition government instead opting to attract more migrant workers.

Monika Schnitzer, who heads the influential German government’s Council of Experts, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in July that new arrivals didn’t even need to speak German as she called for mass immigration to hit 1.5 million a year.

As the number of new arrivals rises, including large families under reunification laws, so too is the number of children receiving state benefits, which has hit a record high. A total of 888,218 foreign minors now receive state welfare benefits, a figure that has tripled in 13 years, with 303,962 minors receiving financial assistance in 2010.

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