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Not long ago, the world awoke to the news that BioNtech, the German bio-tech company, has developed a successful COVID-19 vaccine. The owners, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, are proud “Prussian Turks,” or German citizens of Turkish descent. Both are the children of Turkish migrants, according to the Guardian. It’s unclear if the pair’s parents came through the official German guest worker program, which brought hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens to Germany to work in various industries. The program was supposed to be temporary, but many guest workers stayed on.

Citizenship and Nationalism in Germany

Until 1999, however, German nationality law locked Turkish immigrants out of German citizenship. German law rejected the idea of Germany as a nation of immigration. In 1999, legal reforms offered a pathway to naturalization for immigrants who could establish they could integrate into German society. Children born in Germany to long term residents automatically became German citizens until they turned 23, when they must opt for German citizenship. The children of Turkish immigrants do not have the right to dual citizenship, forcing them to choose, and loss of their German passports was automatic. As a result, almost 50,000 German Turks lost their German nationality when they turned 23. The question of national identity in Germany continues to be fraught, particularly today with the resurgence of the German far right. …

Alex Jean

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