Cologne attackers long way from passport to UK

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.01.2016

The New Year’s Eve sex attacks in Cologne by gangs of men from North Africa and the Middle East have shocked Europe. But UKIP’s claim that the culprits will get unfettered access to Britain in three to four years is incorrect. Anybody with a criminal record won’t get German citizenship at all. Even asylum seekers without criminal records will have to wait roughly a decade before getting a German passport.

On his weekly phone-in on LBC Radio on Jan. 8 Nigel Farage said that gangs of “aggressive young males” in Cologne could soon travel to Britain under the EU’s principle of freedom of movement. “After a period of about three years, maybe four, they will be able to get German passports and a German passport is an EU passport, which is a British passport.” The UKIP leader made a similar statement on Jan. 11 during his IWA debate against Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Barring exceptions of “public policy, public health or public security”, holders of German passports have the freedom to enter, live and work in the UK. Whether the Cologne sex attackers will ever get German citizenship is a different matter.

According to North Rhine-Westphalia state’s interior minister, 19 men are under investigation in connection with the attacks. Ten are asylum seekers, nine of whom arrived in Germany after Sept. 2015. Another seven could be in the country illegally. None is German.

As a general rule, anyone (even a Brit living in Germany) needs to have eight years of legal residence in Germany before they can apply for citizenship. Asylum seekers cannot begin their eight years of legal residence until asylum is granted. This has typically taken one to three years. Therefore, a newly arrived asylum seeker can expect to receive German citizenship in roughly a decade.

But it isn’t simply a matter of time. Germany also requires people to have an adequate knowledge of German and the ability to support themselves financially before they get citizenship.

Most importantly, they must also have a clean criminal record. Whether their crime is linked to the Cologne attacks or another offence somewhere down the line, this stipulation would stop criminals acquiring the “passport to Britain” Farage says is around the corner. Some may even be deported. After all, the German government has just announced legislation under which non-Germans committing offences that carry a jail sentence of one year or more can be kicked out of the country.

UKIP failed to respond to questions from InFacts about Farage’s remarks. But it’s clear his claim that the Cologne sex fiends will effectively have a British passport in 3-4 years is untrue.

This article was previously published on 15 Jan. 2016 on hugo-dixon.com

Edited by Hugo Dixon