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Integration Report: Surprisingly Positive Findings (May 20, 2010)

On the basis of a survey of 5,600 immigrants and native-born Germans, an expert committee issued a surprisingly upbeat assessment of efforts to integrate immigrants into German society. The report pointed to growing mutual respect between immigrants and Germans, and called for further measures to improve the education of immigrant children.

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Integration Report: Acknowledgment of the Immigration Nation

Integration in everyday life is less complicated than some political debates would have us believe. “Warnings of social catastrophes” are ill founded, says migration researcher Bade during the presentation of the annual report of the Expert Council of German Foundations.

While the same old discussions about Germany as an immigration country, about assimilation, or “multiculturalism” are being carried out in the political discourse, the integration process as a whole has proceeded more smoothly and more successfully than in neighboring European countries.

This is the conclusion of the Expert Council of German Foundations for Integration and Migration, which just presented its first annual report and a so-called integration barometer. Their findings point to a strong underlying mutual trust between the majority society and immigrants.

One of the surprising findings is that some immigrants trust Germans more than members of their own ethnic group, and also more than the Germans trust themselves. “Warnings of social catastrophes in group conflict therefore seem ill founded,” says the chairman of the Expert Council, migration researcher Klaus Jürgen Bade, in Berlin. Only one in twenty immigrants feels uncomfortable in Germany, whereas one in fifteen Germans is dissatisfied. And satisfaction increases even further among second-generation immigrations (also among Turks), who perform much more poorly in school.

More Education, a More Critical Attitude

About 25% of immigrants charge their own group with a lack of interest in integration; 20% see a refusal to integrate among Germans. As their level of education rises, individuals with a migration background become more critical of their own group for lacking interest in integration but less critical of the majority society, according to the 252-page report.

The German population does not expect immigrants to give up their religious and cultural affinities. The desire for equal treatment is equally strong among both groups (in both cases more than 90%); the same holds when it comes to support for foreign schoolchildren.

Here, the Expert Council rightly recommends that support for [German] language acquisition should not be limited to preschool language classes, but should continue throughout the children’s entire academic career – also in middle and high school, and even at university in courses on academic writing. After all, the connection between a command of the German language and educational success is particularly pronounced in Germany. But, as before, 44.8% of foreigners speak only their native language at home. It is all the more unfortunate that only 10% of foreign children (25% of German children) are in preschool, and 83% are in kindergarten. The Expert Council resolutely rejects payments to parents for non-institutional childcare. To save on kindergartens, of all places, is a sign of “suicidal budgeting,” says Bade with reference to the spending cuts proposed by the Minister President of Hesse, [Roland] Koch.

That is why the government’s Commissioner for Integration, Minister of State [Maria] Böhmer, called on the Länder “to up the intensity and quicken the pace.” In the National Integration Plan, they had promised to bring foreign schoolchildren’s performance up to the level of Germans by 2012. But the National Integration Plan is even less well-known among foreigners than the [German] Islam Conference. Sixty percent have never heard of it.

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