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Germany

A master plan for integration

A project team with representatives from Germany's federal and state governments are working on an integration plan for refugees, to be published in the spring. So far, no concrete measures have been put forward.

The list of demands is long. Although no details about the integration plan have been revealed, migration experts already have specific ideas about how refugees and immigrants can be integrated into German society.

The psychologist and author Ahmad Mansour insists that integration is a job for professionals and that it would be wrong to leave the responsibility to volunteers. Teachers and social workers should receive better training in this area. They should know more about Islam and be able to come up with solutions for cases of youth radicalization.

Values like democracy, freedom of speech and human rights must be added to school curricula. Mansour also believes that questioning Islamic principles must be permitted. Phenomena like the negative image of women, radicalization, honor killings and anti-Semitism must clearly be condemned but without having to marginalize Muslims.

Lucrative investment program

Olaf Kleist, a migration researcher at the German University of Osnabrück and Britain's Oxford University, cites four points that must be part of the integration plan: housing construction, education, work and civil society. These aspects must be connected to each other, he told Deutsche Welle in an interview.

"Accommodating refugees is a great challenge. Yet it is also a chance for urban renewal." The same can be said for education. Schools and universities should react to the changed situation.

Kleist highlighted the role of civil society and said, "The numerous initiatives that already exist need more support." Various foundations and associations also face new tasks. Kleist views integration as a great program which requires investment. He expects that in the long term, Germany's economy will benefit from the outcome.

Effective distribution of funds

Education will play a key part. There are still many deficits in schools, concludes the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR). "For years, education policy has recognized the fact that children from an immigrant background have fewer education opportunities," stated the director of the council, Cornelia Schu. School funding procedures have rarely considered the needs of individual schools to compensate for specific disadvantages.

"Our analyses show that just under half of the German states systematically distribute funding to individual schools so they can, for example, offer language support to students with an immigrant background," Schu said.

Yet in 2007, the German states had already pledged to provide targeted support measures. Individual school needs must be calculated thoroughly to ensure that funding supports the demands. Social data and the ratio of students with an immigrant background must be also be taken into account, said Schu.

Opportunities for stagnating regions

Wolfgang Kaschuba, director of the Berlin Institute for Empirical Research on Integration and Migration (BIM), encourages the development of a master plan for integration. Kaschuba also speaks of the previously mentioned four points: housing, language acquisition, education and work. It is important to develop models that have a promising future.

He also rejects the use of a certain type of language in politics. "The flood is not as great as politicians make it out to be. Five years ago, when we were discussing demographic changes, we would have been pleased to have received a million people at once. Now they're here," Kaschuba said.

In Germany, there is an urban-rural gap, he says. In rural regions, more than a million apartments are vacant. This could amount to a win-win situation for shrinking regions, said Kaschuba. The researcher hopes that public administration will discard its departmentalized thinking.

Jewish organizations concerned

Jewish organizations are also carefully monitoring the German government's proposals for an integration plan. They fear a surge in anti-Semitism in Germany.

"A call for democratic values ​​and prevention with regard to anti-Semitism must be put on the agenda," urged Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Berlin. "High-ranking political representatives on federal, state and local levels must put measures in place to allow for a successful integration of refugees."

None of this information is actually new: back in 2007 and 2012, politicians and experts had already developed a "national action plan for integration." Evidently, this plan no longer meets current requirements.

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