So often the political debate about migration and integration sees the issues at the level of the society as a whole. What can city/region/country do with X thousand new people? How will those areas change? What opportunities or burdens will all of this present to that area? How will the people already there feel about these newcomers arriving?
That latter question is the one that explains why the German CDU (and it is a position backed by the AfD) is banging on about banning dual citizenship (although their argument more applies to those born in Germany to non-German parents). We want to, so the argument goes, ensure that everyone who comes to Germany or is born in Germany is not only integrated, but also somehow swears allegiance to being German, and – crucially – is German above and beyond whatever their own background is.
But just think about this for a moment from the starting point of the individual that chooses to move. In the end any move is an individual choice – even a refugee has to choose whether they want to take the risk to board that dinghy across the Mediterranean. That choice is never an easy one to make, wherever you are from and wherever you go. You leave home (however you define that) behind, you leave family and friends, and you have to overcome a series of administrative and economic hurdles wherever it is that you end up. All of this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Then wherever you land you land there with some of what you were before still with you. That may erode over time to a certain extent, and you may take on some aspects of the culture in which you find yourself. Speaking from my own experience I am very well integrated in Germany – I can do Ordnung with the best of them, I have run for political office, and I’m in a very typically German sports club. But I still do not see the charm of German Christmas Markets, and I still listen to BBC Test Match Special cricket on the radio, and I probably will for the rest of my days.
Apply all of this to dual citizenship and it puts me, and people in situations like mine, in a bind. Give me an opportunity to take German citizenship in addition to my British passport and I’d jump at it in an instant. Force me to choose and I would be less keen, because I cannot – understandably – know what the future will hold. Post-Brexit would I, then as a German citizen, have the unrestricted right to return to the UK if I needed to if, for example, someone in my family fell terminally ill and I had to care for them? It would be even more complicated had I come to Germany as a result of some sort of fateful situation – a war perhaps – rather than the move being a largely positive choice.
As I see it dual citizenship is vital for integration. It gives individuals a strong and positive incentive to integrate where they live, and to take on board the rights and responsibilities that entails. Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) is right to defend dual citizenship in those terms. Forcing more people to choose one citizenship or the other is inevitably going to fuel insecurity (at best) or resentment (at worst) among those individuals, and that is surely the opposite of the feeling anyone would want to engender in people. I expect nothing better from the AfD, but if the CDU is serious about making a diverse Germany a success it needs to realise dual citizenship has to be a part of that.