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Integration Analysis

Peter Philipp (nda)July 11, 2007

In 2006, the first integration summit was seen as a successful step towards easing Germany's immigration problems but 12 months on, there are still more questions than answers.

Integration courses were a product of the first summitImage: dpa - Bildfunk

The meeting on July 14, 2006 was celebrated by many as a "historical event." Eighty-six people from all aspects of German life were invited by Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the problems of immigration in Germany and specifically the problems associated with the integration of immigrants.

More than two-thirds of the participants were German politicians, representatives of federations and church leaders. Less than one third came from the demographic of those the meeting was set up to help.

Of the immigrants who did attend, half were of Turkish origin. The Turks, with 2.2 million people, are the biggest group among Germany's immigrants and approximately 20 percent of them have taken on German nationality.

In total about 7 million people of non-German origin live in Germany. A quarter of them come from EU countries and, due to the generosity of the EU, they experience few problems coming to and settling down in Germany. A third of Germany's immigrants have lived in the country for more than 20 years while about half have lived in the country for more than 10 years and nearly every fifth was born there.

The "guest workers" who came to stay

Italienische Gastarbeiter treten Heimaturlaub an
The "guest workers" began to arrive in the 1950sImage: dpa

The first influx of immigrants began in the 1950s when Germany began to enlist the help of "guest workers" from southern Europe, followed by workers from Turkey in the early 1960s. They were all called "guest workers" because Germany's idea was that they would return to the native country some time in the future. While many did this, others remained in Germany and stopped being "guest workers" and instead became "immigrants."

It soon became obvious that Germany had not anticipated such a phenomenon and had little infrastructure and few laws in place to cope with the admission and integration needs of these people. The Turkish immigrants especially were concerned by the cultural and religious differences they saw in German society. In later years, there was even greater concern, especially after Sept. 11, 2001 when an upsurge in mistrust of Islam and Muslims followed the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Study groups charged with compiling integration plan

Integrationsgipfel in Berlin, Angela Merkel
Chancellor Merkel meeting the delegates at the 2006 summitImage: AP

Bearing in mind the difficulties allaying all parties, the first German "integration summit" in 2006 attempted to solve the problems together. Six study groups were set up to deal with the most important factors: integration courses; learning German; education and vocational training; as well as the situation regarding women; local integration activities and integration activities to benefit civil society.

These study groups were expected to bring these factors together in the integration plan that is due to be discussed at the second summit on July 12. But while there had been much initial praise for the first summit, there has been growing criticism ahead of the second.

The German government's handling of the immigration law has left many feeling deceived, with the the Turkish federations feeling most discriminated against. Many immigrant organizations have said the government ignored them in the policy-making process, and the Turks feel that many of the points in the law were targeting them specifically.

So while Germany prepares for its second, laudable summit aimed at easing integration problems, those who it hopes to help are again marginalized and several Turkish groups have already said that they will boycott the summit in protest.

How many immigrant representatives show up at the 2007 summit remains to be seen.