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Germany

German Government Planning Integration Summit

In an attempt to develop a new integration concept, the German government will organize a summit to address a wide range of issues surrounding immigrants and their families.

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Germany is urgently looking for a new integration concept

The German government announced it was planning an integration summit to take place in Berlin by the beginning of July, at the latest. The summit, which is expected to address a wide range of integration policy issues including language competency, education and urban planning, should help the government develop a comprehensive policy for immigrants and their families.

The announcement came as a response to the ongoing and increasingly heated debate on integration problems in the country. Earlier this month, a Berlin court convicted a 19-year-old man from a Turkish immigrant family for gunning down his sister on a Berlin street last year in a much publicized case of 'honor killing,' which had stunned and enraged the German public.

Avoiding ghettoization

Unterricht türkische Schülerinnen mit Kopftuch im Schulzentrum in Bremen

Lack of language proficiency is often an obstacle to integration

The German public also responded with great concern to the news that police checks had to be introduced at an unruly school in Berlin's ethnically diverse suburb of Neuköln, attended mostly by children from immigrant families.

Speaking about the tensions at the Rütli School in Berlin-Neuköln, school principal Petra Eggebrecht put the problem of school violence into a broader perspective.

"We have 83 percent children from immigrant families," Eggebrecht said. "The failed integration policies have lead to ghettoization in our schools. The students no longer have any perspective in life, the parents are unemployed. All these problems clash together in a school, and teachers are supposed to find a solution. There is no solution."

No more indifference

Maria Böhmer

Commissioner for Integration Maria Böhmer

Germany's Commissioner for Integration Maria Böhmer and member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said in a recent parliamentary debate that the time of indifference regarding immigration problems was over.

"One in five students who come from an immigrant family does not get a high school diploma," Böhmer said. "In Berlin-Neukölln, it's one in three. And 40 percent of young people with immigrant background have no professional qualifications."

The preparation of the integration summit is an important test for Böhmer. She has been criticized -- in sharp contrast to her Social Democrat predecessor Marieluise Beck -- for not seeing herself as a true representative of Germany's immigrants and for not having enough contact with immigrant organizations. Böhmer stressed, however, that representatives of immigrant organizations will be invited to participate at the summit.

Uneasy debate

Finding a solution to integration problems may, indeed, prove to be difficult. There is currently no consensus in the country regarding immigration tests or the degree to which forced marriages should be sanctioned.

Edmund Stoiber, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) -- CDU's sister party in Bavaria -- raised quite a few eyebrows when he suggested residence permits should be revoked from the immigrants who refused to integrate. Social Democrats, the Green party and the Left party rejected such an approach. German Minister of Justice and SPD member Brigitte Zypries said it would be difficult to define "refusal to integrate" in legal terms.

Around 14 million people living in Germany have an immigration background.

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