In the beginning of December, the local newspaper WAZ published an article about inhumane conditions in front of the foreigners’ authority in Duisburg where students already start standing in line at night hoping to get an appointment. We talked to two affected persons and the International Office of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) about the situation.
Duminda* already has a folder filled with documents from the university and the authorities. Nevertheless, he is only at the beginning of the dispute about his visa. The International Office explains why foreign students have to go to the foreigners’ authority: they are subject to registration and residence laws. While EU citizens such as Germans can get registered at the responsible district office, so-called third-country nationals (citizens who are excluded from the right to freedom of movement under European law) have to report themselves to the immigration department.
There they can, for example, have their entry visa converted into a residence permit.
Duminda, a Mechanical Engineering student studying in his 10th semester, has been there several times to extend his visa. So far, it worked out until he moved to Mülheim an der Ruhr and an employee of the foreigners’ authority refused him a further extension. In the employees’ opinion, Duminda had exceeded the average duration of his studies and not collected enough credit points as she informed him in a written statement about the rejection.
Incorrect Calculations by the Authorities
The document the student received along with the statement assumes an average of 6.62 semesters as the standard period of study. However, for the subject Duminda studies nine semesters are the average, international students may even study three semesters longer, i.e. a total of 12 semesters. The credit points noted in the document by the foreigner’s authority also do not correspond to his actual performance. Duminda has already achieved significantly more points, is fully on schedule with his ten semesters and this has been certified by the UDE.
"As foreigners in a new place, we already have enough fears and things to deal with."
"She is making a decision for my life," Duminda complains about the employee of the authorities responsible for him. When he confronted her, she replied: "I have already decided. You can complain," he says. "Honestly, I think they want me to leave, so they treat me like that. I guess, I'm someone they can easily get rid of. There are several ways to calculate these numbers and she has done it in a way that is as unfavourable as possible for me," says Duminda.
Sandhya is currently pursuing her doctorate in Sociology at the UDE. She has also had negative experiences with the immigration department in Duisburg. For days, she had to wait in front of the office, "always from five, six o'clock in the morning, at least for two and a half hours," she recalls.
She had also planned to stand in line at night to increase her chances, but then decided to complain to the International Office first. "I was supported after my complaint had reached them. As foreigners in a new place, we already have enough fears and things to deal with," she says. “Such problems only create more frustrating situations for us," she says. That's why she made some suggestions for improvement to the International Office.
When Existence is Threatened
The International Office also knows that an appointment with the foreigners’ authority is of existential importance. "Without registration you can neither open a bank account nor get an employment contract, nor, for example, conclude mobile phone contracts," says the office. At present, however, one has to wait three to four months for an appointment. After entering a country, a visa is often only valid for three months. They explain: "If you have made an appointment in time, but the visa has already expired, you are still not 'illegal'.
However, it is better not to leave state borders in order to not get into trouble during an entry check."
No one should question that these are unreasonable conditions for international students. The rector of the UDE, Ulrich Radtke, is in contact with the mayor of the city of Duisburg, Sören Link, who has assured the personnel reinforcement at the foreigners’ authority. Right now, the university solely holds open appointments for professors, but not for students. The university says this will only be possible in the upcoming future through the personnel recruitment promised by mayor Link. "Rector Ulrich Radtke is keen to avoid a two-class society," assures the International Office.
Duminda’s Last Chance
While the situation for Sandhya has improved in the meantime, Duminda is only getting started. He turned to the superior of the employees in the Mülheim foreigners’ authority. However, he had supported his colleague and did nothing for him. "I have now spent 800 euros on a lawyer. I had no other choice," says Duminda. He invested a lot of time in the matter, especially since he was in a foreign country where he was not familiar with the laws. He is glad to have the financial resources for the lawyer at all. After all, he cannot work since he doesn't have a valid visa.
Therefore, his mother has to financially support him. Duminda wants to finish his studies as soon as possible. "That's why I'm now taking eight challenging exams. I am forced to do so because they don't give me time. Every day, I come home only to learn and sleep, that's it.“ His lawyer had explained to him that if he failed, all he could do was to begin an ausbildung. This puts even more pressure on him: "I won't do that. I came here to become an engineer. At home it's very difficult to get into a university. I'd rather go back than to do ausbildung," he says and adds: "It's very unfair. But I'll get it done. I won't give up under any circumstances. I am optimistic".