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