Meseberger Declaration. Germany’s Integration Policy

Despite there being plenty of ongoing or recent events that appear to be more severe, urgent, dramatic – Brexit, Orlando, Turkish diplomacy, UEFA Euro to name a few -, i would like to start this off with another topic: The German Integration Policy, which was enacted  at the 25. of May in Meseberg.
The involving problems do not only outline several relevant conflicts that are intertwined with the aforementioned events; one should never forget what developments are taking place on a daily basis, while the public attention rests on the usual headlines.
Usually this topic would requiere endless discussions und declarations to even have a foundation and understanding of this ongoing catastrophe, alas, the behemoth named Migrant Crisis is receiving a verbal beatdown anywhere and anytime, therefore being no need for me to repeat all of these mind-numbing events. The borders were opened, the so-called refugees – which i will call migrants from here on out, as long as there is no need to speficy the term – flooded Germany and the rest of Europe and now have to be integrated as fast and efficiently as possible through political and social means. That’s the theory, at least.
Before contemplating the possibilites and impossibilites of the practical implementation that the policy intends, one should look at the general goal of it.

To quote from the Meseberger Declaration on Integration:

„For successful integration it is indispensable that migrants learn German quickly, that they are swiftly integrated into training, tertiary studies and the job market, that they understand and respect the foundations on which German society is built, and that they respect the laws of the land.“ [1]

The domestic political actions to be taken are:

  • Impartation of values and language abilities in integration courses. Said courses need to be organized and provided more quickly and are going to be increased from 60 to 100 hours, with greater capacities and a decrease in the right of participation from two years to one.
  • The country is allowed and endorsed to relocate the asylum seekers wherever it is deemed effizient.
  • 100.000 additional employment opportunities are created for asylum seekers through national funds. The regulated preference of citizens of the EU is suspended for three years.
  • Easier conditions for obtaining an apprenticeship. During the apprenticeship and six months after completion, the permit to stay is guaranteed. Furthermore, access to subsidies is to be gained more easily.
  • Violation of integration duties are to be punished by cutting of payments, a permanent stay permit should be motivation for efforts of integration. [1,2]

These are cornerstones of the integration policy, without going into too much detail. Federel Government representatives proclaimed it a „milestone“, a „real paradigm shift“ in the history of immigration in Germany.
As usual, reality presents itself vastly different.

  • Raising the necessary hours taken in the integration courses and expanding them is generally a good idea to teach migrants essential knowledge about the country that’s hosting them.
    Alas, it is already known that there’s a huge shortage of teaching staff everywhere, leading to waiting lists and cancelled courses already in the year of 2015. Furthermore, the jobs are paid poorly (around 1.000€ net income per month), generating a bad motivation from the get-go for everyone involved. Minister of the Interior, Thomaz de Maizière, demanded a raise in salaries himself, but there’s still no mention of actual plans to implement the like of it. Aside from avoiding the question of how to establish these expanded courses in the first place, more problems will surface in the courses themselves, as can be seen at a much younger age in elementary schools. [3, 4, 5, 6]
  • Administration of municipalities and federal states are to be relieved via residential obligation, as well as to avoid an increase in ghettos and parallel societies in metropolitan areas.
    What’s lacking is an actual plan to tackle those that refuse to stay at their assigned home for various reasons. The same goes for the hundreds of thousands who were never registered in the first place and simply vanished after crossing the border. Additional problems emerge from bureaucratical obstacles, asylum seekers that got registered multiple times as well as stolen or forged ID cards. [7]
  • There’s much to discuss about the notion that access and participation is mandatory for a successful integration. Most of the related issues are blatantly clear in such a manner that this isn’t really necesarry in this context.
    Most migrants won’t be able to use the german language in a work-related way anytime soon, english skills might be slightly more prevalent but still won’t suffice for a proper work relationship, general education and social skills are expected to be heavily underdeveloped as well – no one believes in the legend of foreign experts anymore. And even those few highly educated people that really are to be found in the inbound masses will propably face problems of cultural  discrepancies, as can be seen from examples of syrian doctors.
    Those who are actively trying to integrate themselves will overcome these obstacles regardless.
    Those who are actively trying to avoid any sort of obligation or don’t want to work won’t be affected by these measures at all.
    It needs to be mentioned that the priority review, that guarantees priorization of residents of the EU for a job application, is to be suspended for three years. Besides being an obvious disadvantage for the EU’s own citizens, there is no actual correlation between the priority review and the amount of rejected applications from asylum seekers. [8, 9]
  • Facilitated access to an apprenticeship and a permanent resident permit can and propably will be exploited, despite there being the threat of revoking these boons.
    The reality of migrants in these situations can already be seen looking at the past years: 70% of migrants from the middle east aborted their apprenticeship, with reasons varying from insufficient language skills and poor payment. [10]
  • Lastly, the point of enforcement; cut-down of payments to sanction the unwilling migrants, the offer of a permanent resident permit to motivate them.
    The idea behind this is appealing, the execution vague and inconsistent. I did not spot concrete rulings and numbers pertaining the possible sanctions and under which conditions the individual is to be penalized. In case of doubt, it is to be expected that these cut-downs won’t be enough to change the general behaviour of migrants that are unwillig to integrate; likewise, a resident permit isn’t really needed if you have no reason to fear deportation anyways.

So much for the single regulations of this policy.
It appears to be doubtful that the intended objectives of this policy are met in a reasonable time frame or will have any noticeable effect at all. For many, these changes in late May of 2016 are being implemented far too late anyways and are completely inconsistent. But there is criticism from the other spectrum of politics and general public as well:
The organisation PRO ASYL reports about „unlawfulness“ in connection to the residential obligation [11], while representatives of the political party insinuate an implication of prejudives against migrants, as well as the exploitation of asylum seekers as low wage workers. [12]
Related to this is a plan from minister of employment Andrea Nahles, to establish a payment of 0,80€ per hour in the framework of the integration policy, thus undercutting the 1,00€ payment for unemployed citizens, who are forced into these low wage activities by the job centers.
Therefore, the policy fails in both directions and neither manages to quell the doubts and fears that surround the mass immigration of the past years, nor feeds into the hopes of the optimistic, who await a succesful integration of hundreds of thousands foreign people.

While staff shortage and a measly pay are already prominent shortcomings for the integration courses and their planned enhancement, there’s one more point to be made: The costs.
Guesses varied from about five billion euros to later 14 and more currently 25 billion euros. [13, 14]
These numbers ought to be seen with a good amount of scepticism though, as it is not known how long the integration process (that has to be successful) will actually take, as well as it is unknown how many more migrants will arrive in the coming months and years.
Professor of finance Bernd Raffelhüschen calculated the overall costs to manage the whole migration criss at about 900 billion euros – and called for caution concerning the low educational level of the migrants. [15]
German health insurances reported about increasing costs, approximately 120 million euros. [16]
German municipalities and cities demand more funds and a greater monetary involvement from the German Government, as well as a distinct and explicit discussion about the involved expenses, while criticizing a lack of clear statements about the implementation of the integration policy. [17]

A milestone – a term that, used in this context, for this particular policy, can only be seen as a statement of humour or sarcasm:
A policy that comes far too late; lacks any explicit conditions, means of implementation and repercussions; is potentially illegal; requires funds that can’t be foreseen and calculated properly and are paid in great amounts by those who didn’t have any say in the matter; und is so inconsistent, that it fails to satisfy the demands of the political right and left alltogether.
Although these demands can be heard from many sources and loudly proclaim their discontent with the policy, there are no actual plans to enhance or change the contents of it in any way, and political statements of this nature are more likely to be a media diversion.
The biggest question though, left unanswered by this policy, isn’t even touched by it: How are we going to integrate the people that are already living here in Germany for years, for generations, men and women from Turkey or the Mid East, who are not part of german society, who live inside their own cultural safe space, with their own rules, and threaten judiciary and executive authority with ever-growing conflicts.
Alas, this won’t be discussed this time here. I recommend the work of german policewoman Tania Kamboura on this topic though, whose book gives insight into the everyday struggles of the police with integration. (The mentioned book appears to be untranslated at this point in time.)

Update 11.07.2016: Actual changes were made for the integration policy that was passed on 08.07.2016, although of dubious nature.
Concerning the aspect of a permanent resident permit as motivational factor for asylum seekers to apply for an apprenticeship and thus integrate through work, it was added that this rule would apply for rejected asylum seekers as well. The so-called three-plus-two-rule will encompass them as well as those accepted, gaining a permit for three years to finish the apprenticeship and another two years to find and exert a job.
They will also gain the possibility to change their apprenticeship once, as to prevent employers from threatening them with a swift deportation and exploiting their situation.
With this, the questionable integration policy was not only officially implemented by the Bundestag without and significant changes in consequence of the outspoken concerns that were voiced in the last weeks; an additional ruling was enclosed, that allows asylum seekers that got rejected because of their safe country of origin to extend their stay in Germany, temporary or permanently.
Neither is this compatible with demands and promises of a swift deportation for those with a safe country of origin from the government, nor does it provide a reasonable method of integration: All known numbers and fact until now show, that the open slots for an apprenticeship that are provided are only being filled in marginal numbers, and that the quota for a successful apprenticeship – for migrants with this specific background – is abysmal.[18]

Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:

WordPress.com-Logo

Du kommentierst mit Deinem WordPress.com-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Twitter-Bild

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Facebook-Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Google+ Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google+-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s