For many years, the former GDR brought in so-called "contract workers" from other socialist countries. The people from China, Angola, Cuba, Mozambique, Hungary and Vietnam were supposed to make up for the shortage of skilled workers in the GDR. What was propagated by the government as "friendship of peoples" is now described by many as exploitation.
One of these "contract workers" was Pham Phi Son. He came from Vietnam in 1987, two years before the wall came down. Since then he has lived in Chemnitz, Saxony. He has a partner, Hoa Nguyen. Their six-year-old daughter was born in Germany. She's going to school soon. Pham Phi Son and his wife have permanent employment contracts.
But now the 65-year-old Pham Phi Son is threatened with deportation. The majority of the hardship commission in Saxony again refused to speak of a hardship case, the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) reported. There was no majority in favor of sending a request to the country's interior minister to grant Pham Phi Son a right to stay. The Hardship Commission is made up of nine men and women from church, politics and society.
The Pham Phi Son case has occupied the courts for years. An extended stay in Vietnam in 2016 is cited as the reason for Pham's threatened deportation. Pham Phi Son got problems with an old war injury there, which is why he had to be treated medically, MDR continued. As a result, he stayed in Vietnam for more than six months - and thus violated the German deadlines.
"The withdrawal of the settlement permit overlooks the particular medical emergency that made it absolutely necessary to stay in Vietnam for a longer period of time. As a result, Mr. Pham Phi Son cannot be accused of being at fault," writes the Saxon Refugee Council in an online petition that now has more than 85,000 signatures support of Phan Phi Sons.
"I am stunned, sad and outraged. In Saxony, the hardship commission obviously stands for harshness and not for correcting the harshness of the law if the proportionality between guilt and punishment is not balanced," wrote Chemnitz Migration Commissioner Etelka Kobuß on Facebook.
"To deport a man after 35 years in Germany because he didn't return from his home leave within the legal period of six months is inhumane." In their view, this punishment is disproportionate to the facts of the case. It sends the wrong signals out into the world.
Kobuss fears that 65-year-old Pham Phi Son will find it very difficult to reintegrate in Vietnam. "What chance does he have at the age of 65 for reintegration in his homeland, which (sic!) he left so many years ago? And what can his daughter expect, who was born here and has just celebrated her sixth birthday?"
The Saxon Refugee Council demands that the Pham/Nguyen family should stay and calls on the country's decision-makers to support the family's whereabouts.
"A deportation would not only tear the parents out of their lives, it would also traumatize the German-born daughter. The six-year-old has never been to Vietnam, she speaks German and should start school in the summer," explains Dave Schmidtke, spokesman for the Saxon refugee council.
"I am very sad," Pham Phi Son told the "Freie Presse" about his family's situation.
The refugee council has called for a solidarity rally in front of the Chemnitz immigration office on Friday. The two moderators Joko Winterscheidt and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf also supported Pham Phi Son and his family on Instagram, the "Sächsische Zeitung" reported.
How things will continue for Pham Phi Son and his family is still unclear. The Saxony State Directorate and the immigration authorities in Chemnitz are now deciding on the deportation. The family is actually already obliged to leave the country, reports the MDR, citing the state directorate.
According to the MDR, the foreigners authority will "of course check the requirements for a possible right to stay again". An open procedure is currently still pending. The new right of residence will also be taken into account.
The new right of residence came into force at the end of last year. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, this should give people who are well integrated in Germany good opportunities. With the 18-month residence permit regulated by law, those who have been tolerated for many years should be given the opportunity to meet the requirements for a permanent right to stay.
However, the new opportunity residence law presupposes that migrants in Germany "have been tolerated or permitted for five years on October 31, 2022 or have been living in Germany with a residence permit", "have not committed a criminal offense and are committed to the free democratic basic order". .
However, this does not apply to Pham Phi Son's family, MDR continues. After the first rejected application by the Hardship Commission in 2019, she went into hiding to avoid deportation.
The Saxon Refugee Council has doubts that the new right of residence can help the Vietnamese family. "The reference to the responsible foreigners authority and the possibility of examining other options under residence law, such as the new 'opportunity stay', is a mockery of the family and everyone involved. Before the application was made to the Hardship Commission, the situation was already examined."
The Jusos Sachsen called it "a disgrace that Pham Phi Son is still threatened with deportation despite its decades of integration efforts" and called for the hardship commission's decision to be reviewed.
Sources: Saxon Refugee Council, MDR, "Freie Presse", "Sächsische Zeitung", "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung", Jusos Sachsen, online petition "After 35 years in Saxony: the Pham/Nguyen family must stay!