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Federal President Johannes Rau Calls for Greater Tolerance toward Immigrants (May 12, 2000)

In a moving speech, Federal President Johannes Rau asks the German public to show more tolerance toward immigrants, whom he describes as an asset to society. He also calls on immigrants to make greater efforts to integrate.

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Without Fear and without Illusions: Living together in Germany
Federal President Johannes Rau, May 12, 2000
House of World Cultures, Berlin


Ladies and Gentlemen,

• 30% of all children in German schools come from immigrant or recently naturalized families. At some schools the proportion is 60% or more.
• In 1997 and 1998 more people from other countries left Germany than arrived.
• Between 1990 and 1998 50% of all asylum seekers within the European Union applied for asylum in Germany. In 1999 it was at least a quarter.
• Of all those who seek asylum here in Germany, around 4% are granted asylum by the relevant federal authority.
• Turks alone have established more than 50,000 companies in Germany and created 200,000 jobs.
• The German economy will in the future not have enough qualified personnel.

These are six widely differing statements on reality in Germany – and yet they are all part of a broader picture.

Immigration, contingents of refugees, limitations on establishment of residence, immigrants, integration, green cards, asylum, deportation, repatriation – these keywords have for years repeatedly returned to mould political discussion.

Many individual problems and many detailed issues also form the stuff of private conversations – and also often lead to wordless confrontation.

More than seven million foreigners live in Germany. They have in the past years changed our society. But we do not give enough consideration to what this means for life in our country.

And we do not act in accordance with this changed reality.

How we live with one another is one of the most important topics of all when we think about the future of our society.

We must come to grips with this topic

• because it concerns everyone in our country, even if some people have not yet noticed,
• because in some respects it goes to the very heart of our constitutional order and our constitutional reality,
• because waiting does not solve problems but aggravates them,
• and lastly because it comes down to whether we can join forces to provide a good future for everyone.

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