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Berlin admits backlog in integrating migrants, refugees

Past years were wasted to prepare Germany organizationally for migrants as well as refugees, the interior minister has said. De Maiziere also warned that asylum seekers should not be used to fix demographic problems.

Opening a conference on Germany's demographic challenges in Berlin Thursday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the nation's future hinged on integrative practices that required effort, rules and time.

Opportunities had been wasted and tasks overlooked in past years because many in Germany had thought that integration happened by itself, with just "beautiful words," he told 800 participants from Germany's social welfare, health, housing and business sectors.

Deutschland Klaus J. Bade Migrationsforscher

Are Klaus Bade's urgings finally bearing fruit?

Despite increasingly "raw and violent" resistance exhibited by some Germans anxious about Chancellor Angela Merkel's acceptance of refugees, Germany now had to decide how it would tackle integrative tasks and "which resources we have available," de Maiziere said.

1993 Manifesto

The interior minister's remarks were reminiscent of a 1993 German manifesto issued by 60 professors who urged conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl's then-government to drop long-held aversion to immigration - underscored by

arson attacks in towns such as Lichtenhagen, Mölln and Solingen

.

The main author of the "Manifesto of the 60," migration researcher Professor Klaus Bade in 2013 described the 1980s in Germany as a "lost decade" in terms of integration.

Effort rewarded

De Maiziere, in his keynote speech, beginning the two-day Berlin demography conference, said Germany should not take in refugees specifically to fix its multifaceted problem of demographic aging - with more elderly and less income-generating youngsters.

Audioslideshow Helmut Kohl

A young Merkel as family minister in Kohl's cabinet

The two topics of refugee flight requiring humanitarian assistance and career-based migration into Germany should not be confused, he said.

Referring to new arrivees, de Maiziere said those willing to be integrated through effort - such as learning the German language and constitutional structures -

had "every opportunity

."

"Whoever is not willing, will find in difficult in Germany," he added.

Multiple issues

The Berlin conference will examine issues such as "baby boomers reaching pensionable age," integrating refugees into Germany's work force, affordable housing for the elderly, new forms of living together, rejuvenating rundown town centers, dementia, and how to maintain medical services in depopulated rural areas.

Until last year's arrival of some one million asylum seekers, experts had said Germany's population was shrinking from generation to generation by roughly one-third, because of falling birthrates alongside more or less constant death rates.

Germany's federal and regional state governments expect the overall population to shrink from its current 82 million to about 77 million by 2030, but with increasing numbers of persons aged 65 years and older. The trade union Verdi recently warned that up to 12 million workers were at risk of retiring in poverty, amounting to a "ticking social time bomb."

ipj/kms (dpa, kna)

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