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German citizenship law and the Turkish diaspora

  • Susan Willis McFadden

People of Turkish ethnicity constitute Germany’s largest immigrant group but only a small percentage have naturalized as German citizens This article explores the historical foundation of Turkish migration to Germany and the legislative attempts made by both Germany and Turkey to accommodate these people with one foot in each country. It argues that only by abandoning its long-held prejudice against dual citizenship can Germany increase the naturalization rate of all foreigners in its country, not just those from Turkey.

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Susan Willis McFadden obtained B.A. in Pomona College, and J.D. in Stanford Law School. Ms. McFadden practices U.S. immigration law in London, England with the firm Gudeon & McFadden. Email:

An earlier version of this Article was presented to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, as a dissertation in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the M.A. in Turkish Studies. All translations from German are by the author. All Internet sources were accessed on January 16, 2018.

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1 Unless otherwise stated, “Germany” refers to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and does not include the German Democratic Republic before that country was subsumed into the FRG on October 3, 1990.

2 Faruk Şen & Andreas Goldberg, Türken in Deutschland: Leben zwischen zwei Kulturen [Turks in Germany: Life between two cultures] 9 (1994) (stating labor agreements were reached with Italy (1955), Greece (1960), Spain (1960), Turkey (1961), Morocco (1963), Portugal (1964), Tunisia (1965) and Yugoslavia (1968)).

3 Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus 2016 [Population with Migration Background – Results of the Micro census of 2016], Federal Office of Statistics 63 (2016);jsessionid=0646332EA70C5CBB98688BB718A6C657.cae1?__blob=publicationFile [hereinafter Migration].

4 Irene Bloemraad, et al., Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, and Challenges to the Nation-State, 34 Ann. Rev. of Soc. 153, 154–56 (2008).

5 There are, of course, other travel documents issued by a country or organization—such as the Red Cross—that are recognized for international travel but contain a disclaimer of nationality. For a history of the development of the passport, see Kenneth Diplock, Passports and Protection in International Law, 32 Transactions of the Grotius Soc’y 42, 44–52 (1946).

6 Wir riefen Arbeitskräfte, und es kamen Menschen, Der Spiegel (Oct. 30, 2011), (quoting Max Frisch).

7 Statistisches Bundesamt, Datenreport 46 (1999), (specifying that the end of the labor agreements and offers of assistance to return resulted in decreases of the foreign-born population in Germany during several years in the mid-1970s and 1980s).

8 Merih Anil, Explaining the Naturalization Practices of Turks in Germany in the Wake of the Citizenship Reform of 1999, 33 J. of Ethnic & Migration Stud. 1363, 1365 (2007).

9 As will be seen below, even before the 1999 reform exceptions to the prohibition against multiple citizenship were made for the benefit of citizens of other EU countries and of Switzerland.

10 Convention on Nationality, Nov. 6, 1997, 1997 O.J. (C 2) 3, [hereinafter Convention on Nationality].

11 Albert Kraler, The Legal Status of Immigrants and Their Access to Nationality, in Migration and Citizenship: Legal Status, Rights and Political Participation 44–45 (Rainer Bauböck ed., 2006).

12 Qualifications for Citizenship by Birth or Decent, Dep’t of Justice and Equal. Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Serv., (stating that in 2004 Irish voters overwhelmingly approved (seventy-nine percent in favor, twenty-one percent against) the ending of birthright citizenship for all babies born in Ireland, after claims that the liberal jus soli, unique in the EU, was being used to create Irish citizenship for babies whose parents had no ties to Ireland); Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland tightens ring of steel around fortress Europe, The Guardian (June 14, 2004),; Twenty-Seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 (Ir.), (This is a logical result from an ethnically homogeneous immigrant-sending nation).

13 The Irish diaspora in the United States is the very archetype of a powerful immigrant lobby. See, e.g., Peter Anderson, The Global Politics of Power, Justice and Death 30–31 (2005).

14 British Nationality Act 1981, c. 61, § 3(1), (3)

15 U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”) (exempting those persons whose parents were at the time of the child’s birth not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, such as the children of some diplomats).

16 Immigration and Nationality Act § 301, 8 U.S.C. § 1401 (1952).

17 See, e.g., Two Unamalgamated Worlds, The Economist (Apr. 3, 2008), (“Even six decades after Hitler, Germany has not sloughed off the idea that Germanness is a matter of blood rather than of culture or allegiance.”); Ayhan Kaya, Citizenship and the Hyphenated Germans: German-Turks, in Citizenship in a Global World: European Questions and Turkish Experiences 219, 219 (Emin F. Keyman & Ahmet İçduygu eds., 2005) (referring to jus sanguinis and “the Nazi policies with which it came to be tragically associated”).

18 Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland [GG] [Basic Law] art. 116(1), (leading up to the 1999 law, more than one speaker pointed out the unfairness of denying dual citizenship to migrants in Germany while “practically forcing it,” through the Basic Law, on German ethnics in Eastern Europe); see, e.g., Bundestag debate at 3441 (May 7, 1999) (statement of Rep. Ulla Jelpke)

19 Simon Green, Beyond Ethnoculturalism? German Citizenship in the New Millennium, 9 Ger. Pol. 105, 106 (2000); see also Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany 9 (1992); for a discussion of the impact of the Romantik Movement upon German law in general and the German Civil Code of 1900 in particular, see SG Gale, A Very German Legal Science: Savigny and the Historical School, 18 Stan. J. of Int’l L. 123 (1982).

20 But see Jürgen Gerdes et al., “We are all ‘Republican’ now”: The Politics of Dual Citizenship in Germany, in Dual Citizenship in Europe: From Nationhood to Societal Integration 47, 56–57 (Thomas Faist ed., 2007) (“[T]he German concept of nation has undergone drastic changes” post-World War II and the dislike of naturalization and multiple citizenship is explainable by other factors).

21 Migration, supra note 3, at 4, 7 (The micro census is an annual survey of representative households in Germany amounting to one percent of the total number of German residents, supplementing the general census performed every decade. Explanation of the methodology at

22 Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz [STaG] [Nationality Act], July 22, 1913, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] at § 10(1)(4) (requirement to lose or renounce), § 12(1) (exceptions to the requirement).

23 For the current law, see StaG § 17(1)(2) (loss of citizenship upon naturalization in a foreign country), & § 25 (explaining conditions under which permission to naturalize while retaining German citizenship will be granted),; see also Barbara Pusch, Dual citizenship in the transnational German-Turkish space: Notes from Germany, IPC-Mercator Pol. Brief 2 (Feb. 2015), (stating naturalization with dual citizenship has long been possible for nationals of EU countries and Switzerland where allowed to Germans on a reciprocal basis).

24 Verlust der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit bei Wiedereinburgerung durch ausländische Staaten, [Loss of German citizenship by reacquisition of foreign citizenship] Drucksache [Document] 15/5006 at 2 (explaining the process in the German government’s answer to a CDU/CSU Parliamentary question); bundestag publications before 18 October 2005 are available at

25 Turk. Const. part 2, c. 4, art. 66,; for the 1924 and 1961 provisions, see, respectively, Edward M. Earle, The New Constitution of Turkey, 40 Pol. Sci. Q. 73, 98 (Mar. 1925) (art. 88), (part 2, § 4, art. 54); for a historical overview, see Ahmet İçduygu, et al., What is the Matter with Citizenship? A Turkish Debate, 35 Middle E. Stud. 187, 192–97 (1999).

26 Zeynep Kadirbeyoğlu, Country Report: Turkey, EUDO Citizenship Observatory 3 (2012), (describing this as a “fabricated umbrella identity).

27 Turkish Citizenship Law 2009, L. No. 5901, art. 44 § 1, (Turk.) (providing a version of the English translation commissioned by the European Union Democracy Observatory of the law as it stood on May 29, 2009); İnci Ataman-Figanmeşe, Privat- und prozessrechtliche Folgen der doppelten Staatsangehörigkeit nach turkischem Recht, [Private and Civil Procedural Effects of Dual Citizenship Under Turkish Law] in Auswirkungen der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeitsreform [The Impact of German Citizenship Law Reform] 67, 67 (2002).

28 Turkish Citizenship Law art. 13 § 1.

29 Bilgin Tiryakioğlu, Multiple Citizenship and its Consequences in Turkish Law, 3 Ankara L. Rev. 1, 6 (2006).

30 Kadirbeyoğlu, supra note 26, at 4.

31 Ayşe Cağlar, “Citizenship Light”: Transnational Ties, Multiple Rules of Membership, and the “Pink Card”, in Worlds on the Move: Globalization, Migration, and Cultural Security 273 (Jonathan Friedman & Shalini Randeria eds., 2004).

32 Turkish Citizenship Law art. 28 § 1; see also Cağlar, supra note 31, at 279.

33 Kadirbeyoğlu, supra note 26, at 6.

34 Id. at 7.

35 Cağlar, supra note 31, at 286.

36 Germany’s Helmut Kohl “wanted half of Turks sent back,” BBC (Aug. 1, 2013),

37 See, e.g., Debatte über Aufhebung der Optionspflicht [Debate on the Cancellation of the Option Obligation] (July 3, 2014), (showing a striking graphic on the Bundestag’s website, which appears to show a single passport that is both German and Turkish, may have confused some people into thinking that “Doppelpass,” used as a shorthand for “dual citizenship,” actually meant a single, double-nationality passport); see also Debatte über Aufhebung der Optionspflicht, Deutscher Bundestag,

38 For details about the political wrangling that led to the eventual passage of the bill, see Marc M. Howard, The Causes and Consequences of Germany’s New Citizenship Law, 17 Ger. Pol. 41, 48–51 (2008); Merih Anil, No More Foreigners? The Remaking of German Naturalization and Citizenship Law, 1990-2000, 29 Dialectical Anthropology 453, 462–66 (2005).

39 Gesetzentwurf [Draft Law], Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksachen [BT] 14/533

40 Bundestag debate at 2318 (Mar. 19, 1999) (statement of Otto Schily)

41 Id.; Otto von Habsburg Obituary, The Guardian (July 4, 2011), (stating Von Habsburg, son of the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, held citizenship in Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic).

42 Bundestag debate at 3423 (May 7, 1999) (statement of Otto Schily)

43 Id. at 3436 (statement of Rep. Guido Westerwelle).

44 Id. at 3437.

45 Stenographischer Bericht 40 Sitzung [40th Report, Results of the Vote], Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksachen [BT] 14/3461,; see also Kay Hailbronner & Anuscheh Farahat, Country Report: Germany, EUDO Citizenship Observatory (2015) at 6–7,

46 See, e.g., H.-P. Mansel, Zur Reform des Staatsangehörigkeitsrechts 2000 [Regarding the 2000 Reform of the Citizenship Law], in Auswirkungen der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeitsreform [The Impact of German Citizenship Law Reform] 9, 9 (2002).

47 STaG § 4, ¶ 3.

48 STaG § 29.

49 Simon Green, Much Ado About Not-Very-Much? Assessing Ten Years of German Citizenship Reform, 16 Citizenship Stud. 173, 181 (2012).

50 Helmut Rittstieg, Staatsangehörigkeit, deutsche Leitkultur und die deutsch-türkischen Beziehungen [Citizenship, German‚ Leading Culture and German-Turkish Relations] in Auswirkungen der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeitsreform> [The Impact of German Citizenship Law Reform] 13, 14 (2002).

51 Einbürgerungen [Naturalizations], Statistisches Bundesamt, (In the most recent figures available, between 2009 and 2016, the highest rate was 2.3% (2012) and the lowest was 1.2% (2016)).

52 Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache [BT] 15/4496,; the “report” to which the resolution refers was Verbotener Doppelpass [Forbidden dual citizenship], Focus (Sept. 27, 2004),

53 Bundestag debate at 14281 (Jan. 21, 2005) (statement of Ute Vogt, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior),

54 Şener Aktürk, The Turkish Minority in German Politics: Trends, Diversification of Representation, and Policy Implications, 12 Insight Turk. 65, 69 (2010); Schwarz, rot, grün – welche Parteien bevorzugen Zuwanderer? [Black, red, green – which parties do immigrants prefer?], Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration [Council of Experts, German Foundations for Integration and Migration] at 28 (2016) (70% of Turkish heritage immigrants prefer SPD, 13% Greens, compared to 6% CSU/CSU).

55 Kadirbeyoğlu, supra note 26, at 15.

56 Einbürgerungen, supra note 51, at 13, 19–42.

57 Aktürk, supra note 54, at 75.

58 Kadirbeyoğlu, supra note 26, at 4 (citing Turkish Parliamentary Minutes from June 7, 1995).

59 Kemal Yurtnaç, Turkey’s New Horizon: Turks Abroad and Related Communities, 3 Center for Strategic Research 6–7, 10 (Oct. 2012),

61 Pastor und Sultan, Der Spiegel (May 5, 2014),

62 The history of the effort can be found in Zeynep Şahin-Mencütek & M. Murat Erdoğan, The Implementation of Voting from Abroad: Evidence from the 2014 Turkish Presidential Election, 54 Int’l Migration 173 (2015).

63 Shabtai Gold, et al., Turkish Law Prohibits Campaigning Abroad—as Row with Europe Deepens, Deutsche Presse Agentur (Mar. 9, 2017),

64 Şahin-Mencütek & Erdoğan, supra note 62, at 181 (quoting Prime Minister Erdoğan).

65 Id.

66 Green, supra note 49, at 178.

67 Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache 18/10788, (answering a parliamentary question).

68 Bericht der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration 42 [11th Report of the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration - Participation, Equal Opportunities and Legal Development in the Immigration Society Germany] (Dec. 2016), [hereinafter Bericht der Beauftragten].

69 Germany’s Turkish Community Says Let Down by Coalition Deal on Dual Citizenship, Hürriyet Daily News (Nov. 27, 2013),

70 Pusch, supra note 23, at 4–5; Karen Schönwälder & Triadafilos Triadafilopoulous, A Bridge or Barrier to Incorporation? Germany’s 1999 Citizenship Reform in Critical Perspective, 101 Ger. Pol. & Soc’y 52, 55 (2012); Bericht der Beauftragten, supra note 68, at 40 (stating that in 2015 the figure was 54.2%).

71 The TGD has made the recognition of multiple citizenships one of its major goals, so far unsuccessfully. For a history of its efforts in this regard, see Politische Partizipation, Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland,

72 Bericht der Beauftragten, supra note 68, at 43; Biography of Commissioner Aydan Özoğuz and Deputy Head of the SPD,

73 Germany’s CDU Votes to Limit Immigrants’ Rights to Dual Citizenship, Financial Times (Dec. 7, 2016),; Zurück zur Optionspflicht? [Back to the Duty to Choose?], Die Zeit (Dec. 8, 2016),

74 Regierungsprogramm, [Program for Government] 74 (2017),; Unser Regierungsprogramm für Deutschland, [Program for Government] 88 (2017), (supporting multiple citizenship for both children born in Germany and for persons naturalizing as German); “Wahlprogramm” [Election Programme] (2017), (suggesting multiple citizenship for all persons on an equal basis, regardless of their country of first nationality, but ending with the third generation any dual citizenship based on heritage); “Grundsatzprogramm,” [Basic Principles] 65 (2017), (suggesting an end to multiple citizenship for all but exceptional cases and revoking the 1999 law’s introduction of jus soli).

75 Migration, supra note 3, at 167 (Micro census of 2015 shows 246,000 dual citizens Turkish/German. The Federal Office of Statistics says that the actual figure is probably higher, somewhere between 246,000 and the 530,000 counted in the 2011 census).

76 Howard, supra note 38, at 56.

77 See Convention on Nationality, supra note 10, at (C 5) 14 (stating that member states “shall allow” multiple nationality where it is acquired automatically through birth or marriage).

78 Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality, Mar. 23, 1963 O. J. pmbl. & (C 1) 1, § 1,

79 Zeynep Kadirbeyoğlu & Asli Okyay, Turkey: Voting from abroad in 2015 general elections, GLOBALCIT (Aug. 6, 2015),

80 See Kritik an Doppelpass—das sind die Fakten [Critique of Dual Citizenship—Here are the Facts], Der Spiegel (Dec. 7, 2016), (stating the results of the 2014 presidential election, where 59.7% of Turkish voters in Germany voted for the AK Parti as opposed to just 49% in Turkey itself).

81 Ben Knight, Angela Merkel calls for ‘loyalty’ from German Turks, Deutsche Welle (Aug. 23, 2016); Old Fault Lines, The Economist (Aug. 6, 2016),

82 Alissa J. Rubin, Erdogan Calls Dutch “Nazi Remnants” After Turkish Minister Is Barred, N.Y. Times (Mar. 11, 2017),; Turkey’s Erdogan says German leaders are enemies, BBC (Aug. 18, 2017), (stating Erdoğan has since returned the favor by labelling the CDU/CSU, SPD and the Greens all “enemies of Turkey” and urging Turkish heritage German citizens to vote for other parties).

83 Justin Huggler, Senior German Politicians Call for Changes to Dual Citizenship Laws after German Turks Vote to Increase Erdogan’s Powers, The Telegraph (Apr. 18, 2017),

84 Meine Türkei & Almanyadaki Türkler, Oylarını versinler!, Zeit Online, (Apr. 26, 2017),

85 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations art. 36, Apr. 24, 1963, 8638 U.N.T.S. 262,

86 Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws art. 4, Apr. 12, 1930, 179 U.N.T.S. 115,

87 Craig Forcese, The Capacity to Protect: Diplomatic Protection of Dual Nationals in the “War on Terror”, 17 Eur. J. of Int’l L. 369, 385, note 80 (2006) (collecting authorities).

88 Einbürgerung [Naturalization], Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat [The Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Construction and Home], (last visited Jan. 16, 2018).

89 Andrea Shalal & Ece Toksabay, Germany summons Turkish ambassador, seeks release of jailed journalist, Reuters (Feb. 28, 2017),; Journalist for German newspaper arrested in Turkey, The Guardian (Feb. 27, 2017),; Deniz Yücel auf dem Weg zum Flughafen [Deniz Yücel on his way to the airport] Spiegel Online (Feb. 18, 2018)

90 Imprisoned German national in Turkey receives consular visit, Deutsche Welle (June 2, 2017),; German journalist Mesale Tolu Arrives Home after Turkey Lifts Travel Ban, Deutsche Welle (Aug. 26, 2018), (stating that she was released from detention in December 2017 but was not permitted to leave Turkey until August 2018; terror-related charges are still pending).

91 Deutsche Übersetzerin sitzt in der Türkei in Haft, [German Translator in Turkish Jail], Özgürüz (May 12, 2017),

92 Erdogans Geisel, [Erdogan’s hostages], Spiegel Online (June 2, 2017),; see also Andrea Thomas & Anton Troianovski, Tensions Escalate Between Turkey and Germany, The Wall Street J. (July 27, 2017),; see also Sigmar Gabriel, Sevgili Türk hemşerilerim [My Dear Turkish Fellow Citizens], Bild (July 24, 2017),

93 Deutschland verliert die Geduld mit der Türkei, [Germany loses patience with Turkey] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Sept. 3, 2017),

94 Bericht der Beauftragten, supra note 68, at 430.

95 Id. at 433.

* Susan Willis McFadden obtained B.A. in Pomona College, and J.D. in Stanford Law School. Ms. McFadden practices U.S. immigration law in London, England with the firm Gudeon & McFadden. Email: .

An earlier version of this Article was presented to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, as a dissertation in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the M.A. in Turkish Studies. All translations from German are by the author. All Internet sources were accessed on January 16, 2018.

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