The last letter came from the Foreigners' Registration Office on May 5th. Simran Sodhi is required to leave Germany by May 31st. They're reasoning? Her job doesn't entail a public interest, she earns too little and is apparently overqualified. "When I read the letter, I went into a total panic. I didn't know what I should do next. Immediately pack my things?" Until now, she hasn't packed her things.
Sodhi came to Berlin in 2009 to do her Masters in European ethnology at the Humboldt-Universität. She made friends and really likes it a lot here. The 27-year-old has been working as an integration guide for the association offensiv'91 e.V. in the Treptow-Köpenik district since January. There, she assists mirgants in their daily lives; she helps them find apartments or jobs, accompanies them when visiting officials, and counsels, as well as translates, issues of discrimination, among others. Sodhi is a case of luck. Senator Dilek Kolat (SPD) brought the social program for intengration guides into being last year, which now finances 60 positions in Berlin.
According to the German Residence Act, residency status expires 18 months after obtaining a university degree. Unless of course one's salary is one of an academician. That's roughly 3000 Euros a month. Simran Sodhi doesn't earn that much. Yet despite this, she can still support herself with what she earns. Nevertheless, according to officials, the Indian-born woman is overqualified for her job. In an open letter, numerous scientists and scholars from the fields of European ethnology, sociology and migration, among others, raise dissent against the measure; integration politics are one of the core challenges. At institutions of higher education, students are trained to be ready for jobs. And for scholars, integration guides are considered to be one of these jobs.
Simran Sodhi definitely belongs to the educated elite, with her outstanding degree, and her fluent linguistic proficiencies in German, English, Hindu and Urdu. Nevertheless, officials want to deport her. And this, despite the fact that the Residency Act allows for some leeway when "the service offers a public good, particularly when it relates to regional, economic or labor market political areas." But these interests don't seem to be evident in the view of the Foreigners' Registration Office.
Integration politics in contradiction with reality.
"This is an absurd situation: Simran works for a publicly financed project and campaigns for the public good. And that doesn't fall in line with public interests?" asks Christina Antonakos-Wallace from with WINGS and ROOTS. The initiative, which campaigns for a new migration discourse in Germany and the United States, started an online petition on Saturday. "Sure, we were surprised that of all people Simran should be deported, but in general this isn't anything new. This is simply a structural problem," adds Antonakos-Wallace. The planned deportation of the 27-year-old resulted in widespread disgust. After all, scholars, politicians and citizens are all in agreement that a public interest exists in Simran Sodhi's activities.
Aside from scholars, politicians like Gregor Gysi (Die Linke), Oliver Igel (District Mayor of Treptow-Köpenick), Ska Keller (European Green Party, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and Gabriele Gün Tank (Integration Commissary of Berlin, Tempelhof-Schöneberg) also criticized the deportation in an open letter. Furthermore, up until Tuesday evening, around 31,000 people signed a petition on change.org that calls Sodhi's stay in Berlin. Even Berlin's senator for the interior Frank Henkel (CDU) has gotten involved and has called on the Foreigners' Registration Office to review Simran Sodhi's case. In his view, there is a large interest involved in finding a solution for the young woman. Even the city Berlin has to review, whether integration guides shouldn't receive a salary in the near future.
If you also consider the deportation of Simran to be outrageous and an injustice, then you can sign the petition from "with WINGS and ROOTS" here.