Integration Problems in relation to Turkish immigrants in Germany
Nearly a third part of the German population has a migration background. The largest group of immigrants are Turks, thousands of whom were hired as workers in the sixties. These “Gastarbeiter” (immigrant workers) had mainly hard and badly paid jobs, and this way they contributed decisively to the German economic miracle. Though it was intended for the immigrant workers to go back to their countries of origin, the opposite occurred: in the seventies and the eighties their families joined them in Germany, where they settled down permanently.
For many years the German government made little effort to integrate the Turkish citizens. Problems became more and more visible: a part of the first generation of Turks could hardly speak any German and their children obtained poorer results at school than German children. As the unemployment rate rose after the reunification, the Turkish families were hit far more badly than the German ones. Many of the families with lower incomes became dependent on social welfare. The living conditions of the immigrants worsened with the increasing poverty –they were impelled to live in cheap flats, with the result that they often found themselves in neighbourhoods where they lived surrounded almost entirely by foreigners.
Right-wing extremism grew within the German population at the beginning of the nineties, and life-threatening assaults to foreigners took place occasionally. The foreigners found that they had to face the sort of prejudice that held them responsible for the high unemployment rate and the stagnating economy. Many Turkish families retreated even more into their Turkish or Islamic environment for this reason.
At the beginning of the new century the SPD-GRÜNEN government began a process of revision regarding immigration. After a long and emotional debate, it was found that because of the drop in the birth rate, Germany urgently needs highly qualified immigrants and those who already live in Germany are not only badly integrated, but also under qualified.
With the new Immigration law the course was set for an active and job-market oriented regulation of immigration. The immigration law simplifies the bureaucratic structure by linking residence- and work permit. Since then it is easier for highly qualified people, as well as entrepreneurs, academics and anyone with employment in Germany to become a German citizen. But the poorly-qualified hardly stand a chance of getting an indefinite residence permit in this country.
Parallel to the new labour-market regulations for immigrants greater efforts were made to integrate the foreigners who already lived in Germany, as immigrants were still excluded from the German work market because of their lack of mastery of the German language and their poor training. The law of equal treatment which was passed in the summer of 2006 is meant to discourage discrimination in the labour world. The “Charta of diversity” appeals to entrepreneurs to employ people from other countries on an equal or favoured basis. In the national integration plan which was presented in the summer of 2007, a great deal of investment was agreed upon, destined to train young people with a migration background. Despite all these laws and initiatives the fact that must be faced is that immigrants clearly find it more difficult to find training or employment than German natives.
A reason for the high unemployment rate within the Turkish immigrant population is their generally poor school education. The PISA study has shown for years that Germany occupies a sad first place in the social grading of students; children from either socially weak or immigrant families do clearly worse than other students. A reason for this is that many children grow up in an environment where practically only Turkish is spoken. At school, they fail because of their lack of German. For this reason, the German government will invest in German courses for immigrants that start at nursery level. It is also compulsory to take a language and orientation course (integration course) to keep the residence permit.
Hopefully, the life of immigrants in Germany will improve substantially in the coming years. When the efforts to increase integration produce results, immigrants will participate to a greater extent in the German labour market, and in this way, they will be able to take an active part in German society.
A Turk who decides to settle down in Germany finds himself in the midst of an eclectic and lively Turkish infrastructure. There are Turkish-speaking doctors, lawyers, teachers and policemen as well as Turkish nurseries, cafés and even old people’s homes. In Turkish markets you can find any ingredient of the Turkish cuisine, Turkish newspapers and television channels are widely spread. Muslims can choose between small cultural associations and large mosques, including the Hamams, with gender separation.
With such an animated Turkish culture it is easy for Turks in Germany to live “on the side”. However, the person who comes to Germany should show interest for the German culture, because Germans, as well as Turks, can profit from inspiration from each other. This can be proven by the numerous examples of successful integration. For example, the nearly 60.000 native Turkish entrepreneurs, the politicians in the German Parliament like Cem Özdemir, the famous football players like Mehmet Scholl and the internationally acknowledged film directors like Fatih Akin. They all see themselves as Germans who strive towards the mediation of the Turkish culture in Germany, and, by this, enrich German society.