Migration – Towards a Policy of Integration
Immediately prior to the critical stage of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic in Europe, a delegation from Mexico, Central America and Peru was invited by the International Academy for Leadership of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The guests had the possibility to get an overview on migration trends in Germany and the federal state’s strategy and policy on integration visiting Düsseldorf and Berlin.
The delegation, consisting of researchers and professors in academia, directors and managers in NGOs and journalists specialised on migration, met a diverse mixture of interest groups, ministries, politicians and institutions. Most of the participants, though working in the same field, only met each other for the first time during the trip. Nevertheless, from the very beginning, they shared their thoughts and experiences to enrich each other.
Conditions have changed for countries like Mexico due to the political and economic situation in Central America and the US: It used to be a country of emigration. However, there is an increasing number of people returning from the US. On the other hand, Mexico itself is receiving more refugees. Central Americans flee from poverty and violence. Once in Mexico, they are either stopped on their way north or simply decide to stay.
The invited delegation was very aware of the rather challenging situation in Germany – coordinating refugee arrivals on the one hand, dealing with rising populism and racism on the other. The participants knew about the so-called European “refugee crisis” in 2015-16 when many asylum seekers arrived here and have remained until today. Furthermore, they even asked about the racist attack in Hanau with nine German victims with migratory background in February 2020. Nearly one fourth of the German population of 83 million has a “migratory background”.
The introduction workshop provided an overview to specifics and procedures in Germany. The terms “Duldung” – which means that the deportation has been temporarily suspended but is literally untranslatable– and “person with migratory background” caused most questions and disbelief. Apparently the participants were confused about the necessity of introducing someone whose parents might come from another country but who was born and lived here for decades as a person with a migratory background, even statistically and regulatory.
After a windy sightseeing tour on the second day, they visited the Information and Documentation Center for Anti-Racism Work, that is funded by the Ministry for Children, Family, Refugees and Integration of North Rhine-Westphalia. They are aiming to advance the debate on criticism of racism, discrimination and right-wing extremism and support institutions of youth welfare and schools. The meeting discussed the challenges in the German migration society. In order to prevent discriminatory behaviours, as discrimination is still part of migrants’ everyday life, they focus on supporting the youth.
Afterwards, Thomas Franzkewitsch, the advisor for labour, integration health and social affairs of the Liberal’s state parliamentary group in North Rhine Westphalia, presented the main policies towards integration in the state and learnings from the migration crisis in 2015.
The following day, the delegation had a stimulating conversation with the director of the Kommunales Integrationszentrum Düsseldorf about the term “integration” itself that differs widely, not only on a local level. In addition, we met the dedicated staff of the Diakonie Düsseldorf, discussing counselling for refugees and migrants.
At the Düsseldorf Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the delegation got an idea of the professional integration of refugees in the training and labour market, which targets mainly male workers. For demographic reasons, Germany is in need of skilled workers from abroad. Not only do they need engineers or IT specialists, but also medical staff and nurses.
In order to prepare workers for the labour market, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees focuses mainly on the acquisition of language skills. The government offers more than 10,000 courses and combines the courses to teach also German values and culture. Of course that is of latter importance in countries like Mexico, because the refugees usually speak Spanish and integration ostensibly seems easier than in Germany.
However, focusing only on language as integration tool and withholding them from the labour market after their arrival might cause difficulties for the refugees and asylum seekers.
The second half of the visiting programme brought the delegation to Berlin. The spokesperson of the State Agency for Refugee Affairs LAF gave the delegation an introduction on the refugee’s arrival process.
Of course, the decline of Germany’s population is mitigated not only by refugees but also by migrants. As an outstanding example, we met Ana María Alvarez Monge, founder and owner of Migration Hub. She and her German husband came to Germany a few years ago from Costa Rica. Realising that none of her job applications were accepted, she started something on her own. Nowadays, she is a successful entrepreneur running her own company. She found harsh words for integration efforts in Germany and emphasized the discrimination she faced in the application process. Naturally, migrants are a motor for Germany’s economy, but obviously, the country still has a long way to go.
Last but not least, the delegation had the opportunity to meet the head of the migration programme at the German Council on Foreign Relations, who shared deeper insights on the procedure of deportations. She gave examples for failed integration and talked about clan structures in some of the bigger cities in Germany. She emphasized the endeavour of small communities that create a more vivid civil society through initiatives, volunteering and non-profit organisations to bring people with different backgrounds together.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, some meetings of the program had to be cancelled. The delegation did not meet the Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration at the Federal Chancellery, the CEO of Kiron Open Higher education that enables refugees to become specialists in tech via online courses, nor did they visit a refugee shelter or talked to a liberal MP over lunch. Nonetheless, the delegation learned a lot from the meetings and during the evaluation, they shared precise thoughts on the differences and similarities between Germany and their countries.
The complex situation is not easily comparable to Latin America. Nonetheless, Mexico and Central America could focus on learning how to improve the capacity building independent institutions and trained personnel. The clear objectives of the federal authorities and state departments and their close coordination stand out as best practise the delegation could be inspired by.
In Mexico, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is about to create an online migration platform in which organisations from Central America, Mexico and the U.S can connect and find solutions for migrants. With measures like these, the foundation fosters their partners towards an open society.