The untold tragedy of integration in Germany



It has become commonplace in Ger­many to hear demands being made to immigrants such as “If you want to stay in our country, you must learn our lan­guage, you must integrate yourselves and adopt our rituals and way of life, you must get yourself a Job, don’t live off our Hartz IV (social benefit) and if you can’t manage any of these, go back to wherever you came from. What many however don’t realize, is that if the immigrant has to learn and adopt your way of life, then you have to be willing to understand his culture and to mutually learn from each other as the process of integration ist keine Einbahnstraße.

A study conducted by the Berlin Insti­tute for Population and Development shows that foreigners living in Germa­ny tend to remain strangers even after a residence period of 50 years. This is prevalently true, especially for im­migrants who are easily distinguish­able based on the color of the skin or features, because regardless of how long they have lived in the country or the positive contributions they have made; they are still looked upon as migrants and are never actually con­sidered Germans.

It is not uncommon to put migrants in the same basket of blame and fingers pointed especially when someone from their racial group has committed a misdemeanor as por­trayed during the backlash from the New Year Cologne Women Attacks.

The country needs to understand that she cannot continue to see a certain portion of its population as foreign­ers and unequal and yet expect to hold them to the same cultural and behavioral norms and standards. One of the first questions a person from a different racial group gets asked in Germany is “Where are you from? Or where are your parents really “re­ally” from? While the question itself might be harmless (which seldom is), the connotation bellies an innuendo which usually follows it to remind the person that he or she does not belong. A 40 year old German lady, born and bred in Hamburg to Ghanaian migrant parents and who perhaps has never visited Ghana would most likely iden­tify herself as Ghanaian and not as a German. Such occurrence is bad for the system as it creates a mentality of racial segregation which must be de­feated if integration is to work.

Despite Germany’s relatively low lev­el of unemployment at around 5%, a disproportionately large percentage of its migrant population remains out of work regardless of how long they have been resident in the country. The trend is especially high with migrants with darker skin color or non-western sounding names, irrespective of pro­fessional skills, language skills and academic qualification.

It wouldn’t be out of place to suggest that recruiters are playing safe by screening out the migrant population from quality jobs even though their company ethics and regulation requires them not to dis­criminate on such basis. While this occurrence may be difficult to prove, some form of fair affirmative action or incentive should be implemented where necessary to encourage the em­ployment of minorities, improve di­versity, forestall segregation and even­tually close up socio-economic gaps. A properly conducted SWOT analysis for the migrant influx into Germany would show that the country has the strength to take advantage of its op­portunities, leverage on its weakness­es and minimize the threats or fears. Brain gain is the single biggest oppor­tunity the country can take advantage of to leverage on its ageing workforce and its shrinking pension system.

Germany is perhaps the only country in the developed world that still offers free tuition across its public universi­ties to students from outside the E.U and while hundreds of thousands of foreign students flock to Germany to enjoy this state sponsored high quali­ty education, only a minute percent­age manage to find quality Jobs upon graduation, while the rest of the ma­jority migrate to more open societies thereby widening Germany’s diversi­ty brain drain and making a mockery of her free tuition policy.

Lastly, it is impractical to receive sev­eral thousands of new migrants and focus on their integration when a size­able portion of the local indigenous population remain in dire need of ref­ormation, reintegration and integra­tion into the global multicultural soci­ety of which the country has become a part of. Several of the recent anti-im­migrant protest is because the orienta­tion and skills needed for the locals to co-exist with migrants are insufficient.

They all have to learn how to live in peace and harmony not just with people of different religious or racial group, but from across several nations at the same time. With a two sided in­tegration and all-inclusive process, the fears and threats posed by and to the migrants can be better managed and minimized and the tragedy of a failed integration system