Joel Amankwah – Deportation Instead of High School

Joel Amankwah -Hamburg


Joel Amankwah, the 18-year-old who arrived in Germany four years ago, is facing deportation due to a harsh change in migration laws. Imagine the despair of having the law turn into your enemy. Joel, who finished secondary school last year, aspired to start an apprenticeship like many of his friends. His teachers, recognizing his potential, recommended him for upper secondary school (Oberstufe) and encouraged him to pursue his “Abitur.” Now, he is in the 12th grade at the Nelson Mandela School in Hamburg -Wilhelmsburg.

For African children living in Germany, going to school can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. The education system, supposedly built on fairness, often falls short for these kids. They face unfair treatment and discrimination, which makes it incredibly hard for them to thrive academically and feel confident about themselves. The schools preach equality, but the reality for African students is filled with hurdles that their peers never have to encounter.

It's hard to imagine being in Joel's shoes. He juggles school and work to cover his basic needs, supplementing what his parents can afford. Since the new law took effect in 2023, his lawyer, Michaela Koch, has been fighting tirelessly to keep Joel in Hamburg. The poor boy can hardly sleep, weighed down by the uncertainty of his situation. Joel's struggle is not unique; many migrant kids endure this harsh daily hustle.

Previously, refugees in Joel's position would receive a right of residence under Section 25a of the Residence Act after turning 18. This regulation was meant for young adults who are well integrated and either in apprenticeships or still attending school. However, since 2023, the requirements have changed. Now, the legislature insists that the residence permit is only for young adults who have lived in Germany with a toleration permit for the past twelve months before applying. It makes you wonder who passes these laws. We invite young people from all over the world to come, learn trades, and gain skills, only to tell those already here to go back to their countries with no certificates or professions. We can and must do better.

According to his lawyer, "If young people like Joel have applied for a residence permit in Germany and received one, they are now in a worse position than those who were only tolerated." This is simply unattainable.
Since turning 18, Joel's case has gone through several courts without success. If he has to go back to Ghana, it will be the end for him—no school qualifications, no job, no prospects. It's unthinkable.

His case is now before the hardship commission (Härtefallkommission) of the petitions committee in the Hamburg Parliament. Here, members of parliament decide on special cases where the law results in unjust outcomes.
We hope the Härtefallkommission will decide in Joel's favor. Receiving a recommendation for the upper secondary school (Oberstufe Empfehlung) is no small feat, especially for someone who had to learn the language from scratch. Let's not only preach integration; let's act integrationally.

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Desmond John Beddy