Germany as host: examining ongoing anti-immigration discourse and policy in a country with a high level of non-national residents by Sabine Lehr

Syrian refugees in Germany looking at apartment buildings.

Syrian refugees in Germany looking at apartment buildings.

SABINE LEHR is Immigrant Services Manager at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, Canada, where she teaches in the area of community development. She holds a PhD in educational studies from the University of Victoria and a certificate in refugee and forced migration studies from York University in Toronto. She serves on the board of directors of the Victoria Coalition for Survivors of Torture.

 

Abstract:

For decades Germany has experienced a high volume of immigration and ranks first among European Union (EU) member states in absolute numbers of non-national residents. Germany has also received significant numbers of asylum seekers since the late 1970s. Following World War II, the country absorbed one of the world’s largest ethnic migrations in the form of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, and has more recently agreed to resettle a considerable number of refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria. These realities clash with ongoing anti-immigrant rhetoric that penetrates German society and that is also strongly reflected in the country’s contemporary immigration and integration policy. In this opinion paper, I address the dynamics of German anti-immigration discourse and integration policy alongside the presence of large numbers of migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. I attempt to provide an explanation for these dynamics based on Germany’s historic struggle between xenophobic tendencies and liberal aspirations, and in an existing climate where anti-immigrant rhetoric is not restricted to political parties or geographic areas that have traditionally held negative views on immigration and multiculturalism. By focusing on and analyzing the prevalent socio-political discourse and refugee policy in the country, including an emphasis on the Migration and Integration glossary, I argue that xenophobic, anti-immigrant discourse in German society is not simply a recent phenomenon linked to rising numbers of newcomers, but one that follows a distinct historic national trajectory of xenophobia.

Introduction

Germany continues to experience a high volume of immigration and ranks first among European Union (EU) member states in absolute numbers of non-national residents.[1] Following World War II, Germany absorbed one of the world’s largest ethnic migrations in the form of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe.[2] Germany has also received significant numbers of asylum seekers since the late 1970s, even though numbers have recently been spread more evenly across EU member states.[3] According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Global Trends Report 2012 Germany was the only country in the industrialized world represented among the top 10 refugee-hosting countries.[4]

These realities clash with the way in which Germany’s historical legacy is reflected in contemporary immigration and integration policy, reflected, for example, under the Chancellorship of Helmut Kohl (1982 – 1998), which was adamant that “Germany is not a country of immigration”.[5] In his analysis of immigration and integration policy in the UK and Germany, Green outlined how the multi-ethnic, culturally pluralistic character of most (former West) German cities was not supported by the necessary political adjustments that would have allowed immigrants easy access to permanent residence. As a result, access to full citizenship is still the exception and not the rule for immigrants.[6] In 2007 Goodman described Germany as the ultimate example of a country where, historically, “restrictive attitudes toward immigration and exclusionary citizenship traditions have long stood in contrast to opportunities for economic migrants and ‘ultrapermissive’ asylum policies”.[7]

The concept of multiculturalism is politically loaded in Germany. Anti-immigrant rhetoric originates in a variety of political corners and is not restricted to right-wing parties with traditionally negative views on multiculturalism. In October 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism “dead” in Germany and indicated that this approach had “utterly failed.”[8] Moreover, during the same speech, she reinforced that the Christian leitmotif guided integration policies and said that “Germany was defined by Christian values and that ‘those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here’.”[9] The anti-Muslim remarks by politician Thilo Sarrazin of the Social Democratic Party, who accused Turks and Arabs of being incapable of integration, drew international attention and even a reprimand from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.[10] Previously, Sarrazin’s book Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself), published in 2010, had become one of the most successful bestsellers of all time in Germany. The book’s main message is that “a once great nation [Germany] is now at grave risk of descending into idiocy as immigrants [Turks] are genetically of lower intelligence and have higher fertility rates.”[11]   Interior Minister Thomas de Maizére of the Christian Democratic Union party even created a term (quickly adopted by journalists) for those allegedly resisting integration by, for example, refusing to attend German language classes: Integrationsverweigerer (Person Resisting Integration).[12]

It is against this backdrop that I have assessed and tried to make sense of integration policies and realities in Germany. By focusing on the prevalent socio-political discourse around refugee policy in the country, I argue that xenophobic, anti-immigrant discourse in German society is not simply a recent phenomenon linked to rising numbers of newcomers that are perceived and constructed as culturally different from native Germans, but one that follows a distinct historic national trajectory of xenophobia. Xenophobia was previously heavily channeled into anti-Semitic sentiments which became taboo and drew strong censorship following the post-war years.[13] Xenophobic hostility now finds its outlet predominantly in anti-immigrant attitudes and behaviours directed against Muslim groups, most recently fuelled by the global “War on Terror” debate and the highly exaggerated notion of a clash of cultures between the ‘civilized’ (Western, Judeo-Christian) and ‘non-civilized’(Muslim) world.
.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Germany: An Overview

In many countries the right to asylum and the protection of those fleeing persecution is anchored by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In Germany, these rights and protections also have a foundation in the 1949 constitutional Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. This law has to be seen against the backdrop of Germany’s history during the Nazi regime, when many Germans fled persecution and sought protection in other countries.[14] Refugee protection has therefore long been a recognized and sensitive issue in Germany, and the legal right to asylum enshrined in the Basic Law has even been described as “the most generous in the Western hemisphere.”[15]                         .
Between 1984 and 1992, Germany experienced a steep increase in asylum applications. This led to a reform of German asylum law in 1993 that was followed by a decline in asylum applications, which returned to pre-1984 levels.[16]  Whether as a result of these new policies or for other reasons, the number of asylum applicants declined considerably between 1995 and 2001. One major factor affecting these statistics was the civil war in former Yugoslavia. This conflict led to a peak in applications from 1991-1993, but most of the refugees taken in during those years have since left Germany.[17] Since the turn of the century, new and increasing conflicts in the Middle East have triggered another spike in global refugee numbers. By 2013, Germany was receiving, by far, the largest absolute number of asylum applications in the EU–a total of 126,995, or almost 30% of all EU applications. This figure is almost 2.5 times the figure for 2010, and six times the figure for 2006.[18] In 2014, Germany received 202,834 applications.[19] In 2013, Germany granted refugee status, subsidiary protection, or humanitarian/compassionate protection to 20,128 persons (out of a total of 80,978 decisions rendered in the first instance), and in 2014, that number was 40,563 (out of a total 128,911 decisions rendered in the first instance).[20],[21]                                  .
Unique among all Western European states but Sweden, Germany responded to the escalating Syrian crisis by accepting up to 30,000 Syrians per year in 2013 and 2014 as “contingent refugees”[22] (essentially resettled refugees). 20,000 were to enter Germany as humanitarian admissions and 10,000 under individual sponsorship programs.[23] By June 2014, 11,500 visas had been issued towards this goal.[24] These displaced Syrians join other Syrians who arrived in previous years, either as contingent refugees or asylum seekers. Contingent refugees, contrary to asylum seekers, can work immediately in Germany. Nonetheless, they have restricted residency rights and receive a residency permit for two years only.[25]

Persons who are granted asylum or refugee status in Germany following an asylum claim receive a residence permit that is valid for three years, after which a decision is made as to whether the status should be revoked (usually based on a change in the situation in the applicant’s home country). Should revocation not be applied, the person can then apply for a permanent settlement permit[26], but recognition as a person entitled to asylum or refugee status is not a lifetime status.[27] These restrictions show that while Germany may be generous with regard to the temporary protection of refugees, permanent resettlement is more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to achieve.

Compounding this difficulty is the historic unattainability of becoming a German national without being born to German parents. Germany only introduced some form of jus soli (citizenship for those born in Germany) in the year 2000. Prior to this change, Germany relied on the principle of jus saguinis (the right of blood), which only granted citizenship to those whose parents were citizens of Germany. Barriers to naturalization thus remain high, and dual nationality is only accepted during the naturalization process on an exceptional basis. By 2005, 47.2% of all naturalizing immigrants were able to attain dual citizenship, but this rate was largely achieved because of the granting of dual citizenship to most former refugees applying for naturalization.[28]Given that most refugees are unable to obtain a passport from their country of origin or a third country, the granting of dual citizenship by the country that protects them is a positive move. However, immigrants and refugees in Germany can only apply for naturalization after they have lived in Germany with a residence permit for at least eight years. Asylum seekers often spend considerable time in the country prior to being granted a residence permit, which means that they may spend a decade without a passport and without full citizenship rights.

Germany’s unwillingness to genuinely open up to newcomers is also reflected in the country’s current refugee return and deportation system. Voluntary return of refugees to their home countries is organized through two programs: the Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany (REAG) and the Government Assisted Repatriation Program (GARP), in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration. In 2013, 10,251 persons left Germany via these programs.[29] In 2013, for the first time since 2002, the number of deportations rose considerably over the previous year: 10,197 were deported in 2013, and a further 132,000 persons were required to leave the country, including 95,000 whose deportation had been suspended.[30]

The German Migration Report provides further insights into the precarious state of certain groups of migrants in Germany. Even though Germany’s Migration Report does not distinguish between refugees and other migrants, but rather refers generally to the foreign population or population with migration background,[31] it nonetheless indicates that a high percentage of Syrian and Afghan nationals (two major refugee-producing countries), for example, have limited access to residence permits on humanitarian grounds. [32] People under a deportation ban are automatically entitled to a residence permit and have their deportation temporarily suspended; however, “such persons are not regarded as legally residing in Germany”.[33]  They are effectively left in a limbo situation for at least the first year, after which they are granted “lower-priority access to the labour market”.[34] Only after four years may they be granted full labour-market access if deportation is still not possible under the law. The precarious situation imposed on migrants from countries in war and turmoil, many of whom have protracted experiences of flight and trauma, impedes these populations’ ability to integrate within the country where they seek safety.


Integration Policies and Programs in Germany

Several authors have outlined the increasingly restrictive nature of integration policies in the European Union, which include mandatory participation in integration programs and an emphasis on the link between integration and citizenship.[35] [36] Germany’s 2014 policy document Migration and Integration[37] clearly states that:                    .
the Federal Government’s integration policy is based on the principle of offering more support for integration efforts while making requirements [for entry] stricter. Immigrants are expected to make efforts – supported by government services – to learn German and become acquainted with Germany’s legal system, history and culture as well as values that are important in Germany.[38]

This document specifically stresses the link between integration and “peaceful coexistence” in the context of Germany’s 4 million Muslim residents. To provide a venue for dialogue around the integration of Muslims into German society, former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of the conservative Christian Democratic Union created the German Islam conference (Deutsche Islamkonferenz) in 2006.[39] However, the conference has come under intense criticism because the focus has in recent years shifted from co-operation between religious communities and the state to security issues and terrorism.[40]

Migration and Integration also shows evidence of the German government’s ongoing preoccupation with the question of whether Muslims can successfully integrate into German society. The language used by the Federal Government around this politically sensitive issue keeps changing, but the main thrust remains in place. The 2011 version of Migration and Integration contained the following paragraph:

The aim of integration should not be merely to organize the co-existence of people from different cultures. A society cannot long endure an internal divide based on cultural differences. Speaking the same language and accepting the basic values of the receiving society are basic requirements for maintaining societal cohesion.[41]

This paragraph has been removed in the 2014 version of Migration and Integration, likely to avoid the potentially inflammatory connotation of the reference to a “society enduring an internal divide based on cultural differences.” Notwithstanding the softening of language, though, the terminology of ‘co-existence’ has been maintained in the 2014 document, which in and of itself appears to run counter to the notion of integration. Both versions of this policy document contain sections on political extremism and Islamism, with the latter being the only “extremism by foreigners” specifically described and singled out.[42] [43]

To follow Germany’s refugee policy trajectory, it is important to note that until late in the 20th century Germany lacked a national strategy on integration. Germany’s current Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) only came into force in January 2005. The principal approach to integration now rests on the ability of the immigrant to participate in German society, asking immigrants to assume a certain level of responsibility for the integration process.[44] The Act defines compulsory integration courses that consist of a German language and an orientation course on the German legal system, history, society and culture.[45] Only upon successful completion of these courses is an immigrant in Germany entitled to residency, and to social and welfare benefits.[46]

This shift to civic integration courses, which are often part of the citizenship trajectory, has been widely adopted in many European member states.[47] Germany’s position on integration policies is regarded as less radical than that of some of its neighbours, for instance Denmark and the Netherlands, where there are clear sanctions for non-participation in integration programs. However, there is evidence that Germany is increasingly following the lead of these countries with regard to linking linguistic assimilation and acculturation on the naturalization trajectory.[48]

Acquiring permanent residence also requires passing an exam.[49] The Integration Certificate that is awarded to successful participants may facilitate their naturalization process, as successful test results serve to demonstrate the knowledge required for the naturalization test.[50] [51] The renewal of residence permits is also incumbent on a person’s ability to demonstrate compliance with any requirement to attend and pass the final test administered during an integration course.[52] [53] The attendance of integration courses and passing of standard language tests is also a prerequisite for naturalization.[54]

Recognized refugees are also mandated to participate in the integration program. The overall outcome of this program is heavily monitored by an evaluation committee, which advises on curricula and content, and an integration panel, which assesses the medium- and long-term outcomes of these courses.[55] In 2010, the Federal Ministry of the Interior found that just fewer than 50% of those who completed the course attained the level B1 – independent language use – as set out by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.[56]

Integration courses are not free for immigrants: A general integration course consists of 660 hours, and a participant pays approximately EUR 792. Specialized integration courses can cost up to EUR 1,152. There is a built-in incentive to sit and pass the test within a certain period of time, in which case the person may be able to claim back 50% of the course cost. If the participant receives unemployment benefits or cost-of-living support, or is otherwise in financial need, s/he may be exempted from paying the fee.[57] [58] Requiring refugees to meet the same integration thresholds as all other immigrants imposes additional hardships on the former. Contrary to many other immigrants, refugees have frequently entered Germany following years of displacement and complex flight paths. As a result, they may have experienced trauma and may have had their education interrupted. Refugees are much more likely than other immigrants to suffer from psychological disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, which can make it more difficult for them to meet integration course requirements.


The Refugee Integration Process in Germany

As in many other societies around the world, the integration process for refugees in Germany is more challenging than for other immigrants. There is considerable anecdotal and empirical evidence supporting this claim, even though the state does not track refugee integration separately from general migrant integration, nor disaggregate data obtained through censuses or other statistics for refugees.[59] Lumping refugees together with all other immigrants conceals unique challenges that refugees face in accessing state services. For example, the statistics on successful completion of the integration course, measured by counting the number of persons who pass the final exam, show success rates in excess of 90% overall.[60] However, it is unclear which demographics had test results at the differing levels of proficiency. This masks the possibility that refugees, who tend to arrive with higher levels of stress and trauma and from linguistic backgrounds different from European Romance languages, may find it more difficult to acquire high proficiency through the standardized course.

Legal status restrictions, in particular, can have a considerable impact on a refugee’s ability to integrate. In a study including Eritrean refugees in Germany, Al-Ali, Black, and Koser found that insecure status forced some to take on short-term jobs in geographically delimited job markets. In some cases, refugees waiting for a determination also had restrictions imposed on their general mobility by the German government, under the residency obligation that was in place until recently.[61] In recognition of this geographic barrier[62], the German government recently changed the laws governing asylum and residence, and now allows for the residency obligation to be lifted after three months’ residence in Germany.[63] Another example of the barriers erected around integration can be found in an in-depth study of refugee children in three large German cities. Anderson found that uncertainty about their future and the inability to engage in life-planning, due to insecure status, interfered with their integration.[64] Even though refugee children may have more interaction with mainstream society through going to school than their parents or older generations of refugees, they experience lingering linguistic, cultural and social disadvantage,[65] often due to spending many years in residential hostels (Asylantenheim) that increase geographical and social isolation.[66] Refugee children often suffer ongoing identity crises as they hear parents talk about a homeland to which the children do not feel a strong connection, while at the same time feeling pressure to adjust to a new country in which they may not be permanently entitled to stay.[67]                     .

Ersanilli and Koopmans studied the links between naturalization and socio-cultural integration in Germany and two other European countries. Even though the authors did not explicitly study refugees, their focus on Turkish immigrants provides valid insights, as Turks are a group of migrants that differ considerably from native populations in Western European states, with regard to socio-cultural characteristics. Ersanilli and Koopmans found that identification with the host country among naturalized and non-naturalized Turkish immigrants was lower in Germany than in France and the Netherlands, both of which have more accessible citizenship regimes. Naturalized immigrants experienced fewer problems speaking German than non-naturalized immigrants. Overall, Germany, with its restrictive naturalization policies, performed comparatively poorly with regard to socio-cultural integration.[68]

Non-integration is not necessarily an objectively observable phenomenon, but it is part of a public and highly subjective discourse. In her critical analytical study, Gruner showed that there is a perception among German citizens that immigrants are reluctant to integrate into German society and that they therefore engage in voluntary self-segregation. She provides evidence that such segregation is, in fact, the result of racialized power relationships, stereotypes, and discourses linked to the mindsets and behaviours of the non-immigrant population, rather than the immigrants’ intentions.[69]


Linking Official State Terminology and Popular Discourse on Integration[70]

With regard to Gruner’s work, it is instructive to examine the glossary attached to the 2014 Migration and Integration policy document.[71] The first thing that struck me, as a scholar and practitioner dealing with immigration and refugee issues in Canada, was the widespread use of the word “foreigner” (Ausländer) in all official documentation produced by German authorities.  The glossary defines this term as “anyone who is not German within the meaning of Article 116 (1) of the Basic Law, which is primarily based on possession of German citizenship”.[72] Given the difficulty of obtaining German citizenship, this means that a large number of persons who have lived in Germany for considerable periods of time, or who were even born in Germany, are labeled as “foreigners”, foregrounding their otherness and contrasting it with those that have full German citizenship. This could be seen as contributing to the long-term negative connotation in German public discourse of the term Ausländer.

The problematic nature of this label becomes clearer with regard to German nationality law, which applies, for the most part, jus sanguinis over jus soli, linking citizenship to the citizenship of a person’s parents, rather than a person’s country of birth. Reforms to the Nationality Law implemented in 1999 eased jus sanguinis and allowed the children of ‘foreigners’ born in Germany to attain German citizenship by birth, under certain conditions. Later on, however, these persons have to choose between their German citizenship and the citizenship of their parents.[73] These persons are, according to German policy, still ‘foreigners.’ This extended use of the term ‘foreigner’ has contributed greatly to the negative connotation the term has taken on, and its frequent use in hate rhetoric.               .

The term illegal alien is also included in the state’s glossary, even though this term is, per definition, not a formal legal term in Germany. In the glossary the term is noted to be “used by the general public to refer to foreigners living in Germany without the permission or knowledge of the responsible authorities.”[74] It is curious enough that this negative term is listed among the more formal terminology of the glossary, but even more so that the document assumes a general use by the public, which may lead to it appearing as if it was a legitimate legal category.

Yet another term in the glossary extends the labels placed on immigrants and refugees into the indeterminate future. The glossary definition of a person of immigrant background includes not only those who have immigrated to Germany since 1949, but also comprises “all foreigners born in Germany and all German nationals born in Germany with at least one parent who immigrated to Germany or was born as a foreigner in Germany”.[75] As such, the definition of a person of immigrant background can extend into the third generation and comprises persons who are not immigrants at all.

The word immigration itself is further disambiguated in Germany. The German language has two words that denote kinds of immigration: Einwanderung and Zuwanderung. The difference is subtle. Einwanderung “refers to the lawful entry and residence of foreigners intending from the outset to settle permanently in Germany, i.e. legal immigration . . . [whereas Zuwanderung] has become the accepted term to describe all forms of migration . . . across national borders.”[76] In popular discourse, though, such distinction is not made. As a result, both terms are used to portray a negative image of immigration and are used in slogans such as “stoppt die Einwanderung” [“stop the Einwanderung”].[77]  The dual discourse, far from distinguishing between legal and other forms of migration, can thus be (mis)used to depict all migratory flows as undesirable.

Finally, the glossary uses the terms asylum applicant and person entitled to asylum to depict those seeking protection from persecution and those having been recognized as needing protection, respectively.[78] It is peculiar that the state chooses to continue using the reference to asylum in both cases. In common discourse used by the general public, the German term Asylanten is frequently used for both asylum applicants and persons entitled to asylum. In this way, those with a legitimate claim to protection may easily be confused with those deemed to have entered Germany illegally or without a valid asylum claim.

The historic roots of contemporary anti-immigrant integration policy and discourse

Scholars have argued about whether current integration programs and citizenship trajectories constitute a shift away from a multicultural agenda in integration policy.[79] The concept and the reality of integration, in the German context, is increasingly becoming a uni-directional process in which the migrant bears full responsibility, and where the vital role of the host society in enabling the newcomer’s integration is overlooked. The German government does not appear to see a link between the various practices discussed in this paper and barriers to immigrants’ sense of belonging and thus their integration. The unabated use of divisive labels, the lumping together of refugees and other immigrant categories, the long road to permanent residency for refugees and even longer road to citizenship, and the linking of integration policy and practice to concerns about security and Islamization are among those barriers to integration. The discourse around immigration and integration, systematically and legally established by the state and further muddied by the colloquial terminology used by the general public, does little to promote the process of integration for those sometimes eternally labeled ‘foreigners’. Shifting the responsibility for integration onto the newcomer, on the contrary, is likely to give rise to highly problematic discourses, of which language such as Integrationsverweigerer is only one example.

Germany has been much more open to sheltering refugees, statistically, than many other industrialized countries in the world. This lean toward an ‘open door’ policy, however, has not translated into providing a more welcoming environment once refugees have arrived. Isolated, albeit highly mediatized, incidents of real or perceived Islamic extremism in western countries are fueling the hostile atmosphere further. In recent months, the populist right-wing group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, has been staging growing protests in various German cities.[80] The protesters include citizens concerned about religious fanaticism, but also those who espouse racist ideologies. As a consequence, the protesters’ messages blur the lines between opposition to Islamic extremists and Muslim refugees.[81]

Equally disturbing are reports about conditions in German asylum homes that surfaced in the fall of 2014. Private companies widely operate these homes, and nationwide housing standards for asylum seekers and refugees do not exist.[82] Dilapidated facilities are common and finding adequate personnel is difficult. Incidents of racist attacks on refugees in these homes sparked investigations which revealed an infiltration of security personnel by right-wing extremists.[83] Even though there are basic standards that apply to initial reception centers (where refugees may stay during their first three months in Germany), as well as to subsequent accommodation, there is considerable confusion around policies, jurisdiction and applicable regulations.

Joppke characterized Germany’s integration model as an example of “repressive liberalism” where “liberal goals are pursued with illiberal means.”[84]  I believe this dynamic is embedded in a larger, century-long struggle between the forces of liberal thinking and philosophy, as exemplified by the likes of Immanuel Kant, Georg W. F. Hegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Ralf Dahrendorf, and a strong anti-liberal, xenophobic undercurrent that has at times evolved into more extreme forms, culminating in the Holocaust. Adam and Moodley have argued in their recent book Imagined Liberation: Xenophobia, Citizenship and Identity in South Africa, Germany and Canada that Germany, in spite of its racist past and the re-education efforts of the post-war years, has failed to embrace universal human rights.[85] The authors point to a form of “Alltagsrassismus” (everyday racism), which is symptomatic of a “deeply entrenched cognitive identity map” that constructs the dominant group as “normal”, and demeans the different “other.”[86]

This general xenophobic tendency has been further exacerbated by two factors: German reunification in 1990, and increasing Islamophobia across Europe. Due to the low number of foreigners in former East Germany and the limited exposure to multicultural settings before re-unification, xenophobia was higher in former East Germany than in West Germany. Because of lingering socio-economic disadvantages in Eastern Germany, such as high unemployment and lower incomes, Eastern Germans continue to have considerably hostile attitudes towards foreigners.[87] Islamophobia and its constituent form, Islamo-skepticism, are deeply intertwined with fear and skepticism about large-scale immigration to Europe.[88]

Contrary to the situation in other European countries that are also experiencing an influx of Muslim migrants, the Islamo-skeptic narrative in Germany is also fed by decades of political ambivalence over the presence of Turkish migrants in the country, who account for two thirds of the Turkish diaspora community in Europe.[89] Many first-generation Turkish immigrants originally entered Germany as guest workers (Gastarbeiter), a term colloquially used to refer to foreign workers from Turkey recruited between 1955 and 1973 to meet the demand for unskilled and semi-skilled labour in the decades immediately following the Second World War.[90] The German government’s original intention to limit the length of time foreign workers could stay in Germany was met with opposition from employers and the workers themselves. Rather than returning to Turkey, most guest workers stayed, had children and eventually reunited with additional family members who emigrated from Turkey to Germany. This has ultimately resulted in the presence of a very large population of Turkish descent in Germany. Many Germans have watched the growing number of adherents of the Muslim faith with skepticism. As Taras has observed, Islamophobia “bundles religious, ethnic, and cultural prejudices together, just as anti-Semitism”[91]  did–a troubling observation.

Ultimately, the seeming paradox between Germany’s situation as a major recipient country for refugees and other migrants, and the negative discourses that surround these residents, is less mystifying than it may first appear. In the decades following the Nazi era, Germany strove to restore its image of good global citizenry on the international political scene. The country’s role in creating large-scale displacement during the Second World War resulted in an obligation to absorb displaced ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. Based on this history, post-war Germany developed a strong policy response to global migratory pressures. These retributive efforts were well aligned with the philosophies of Germany’s liberal tradition and intellectual elites. They clash, however, with continued xenophobic tendencies that run deep in German society. These xenophobic tendencies also increasingly permeate the regulatory controls imposed upon those that are considered foreigners.

Whether it is the recent PEGIDA movement, the popularity of Theo Sarrazin’s anti-Muslim and Social Darwinist postulations, or the Alltagsrassismus (everyday racism) appearing in many different forms (from subtle racial slurs to regular violent attacks on immigrants and refugees), widespread xenophobia is, unfortunately, a characteristic of German society. Germany is not alone in this regard among its European neighbours: In the European Parliament elections in May 2014, far-right, anti-immigrant parties made major gains. In Germany, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has recently sought dialogue with the PEGIDA movement, and the party had major successes in three Eastern German State elections in 2014 where it won 12, 10, and 10 percent of the vote, respectively.

Such widespread symbolism, slogans, and openly displayed far-right attitudes would have been unthinkable in the Germany of the 1970s in which I grew up and came of age. Yet, even then, the barriers between the native population and those labeled as ‘foreigners’ were palpable. Germany may have extended assistance to refugees in need in the past and in the present, but it has never embraced them, as evidenced in discourse and policy. For many ‘foreigners’, Germany offers a place to live (at least for a period of time), but whether it will ever feel like home remains doubtful.

 

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Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory (Residence Act). Saarbruecken, Germany: juris GmbH, 2014, http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_aufenthg/residence_act.pdf

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Foreign Nationals with Residence Titles Issued from 2005 Onwards: Conditions of Attendance and Costs for Foreign Nationals. (2013a): http://www.bamf.de/EN/Willkommen/DeutschLernen/Integrationskurse/TeilnahmeKosten/Aufenthaltstitel_nach/aufenthaltstitel_nach-node.html.

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Fekete, Liz. “Understanding the European-wide Assault on Multiculturalism.” (Institute of Race Relations, April 21, 2011). http://www.irr.org.uk/news/understanding-the-european-wide-assault-on-multiculturalism/.

Gensing, Patrick. “Anti-EU-Parteien: ‘Weder Rechts noch Links’ [Anti-EU-Parties: ‘Neither Right nor Left’].” Publikative.org (May 23, 2014): http://www.publikative.org/2014/05/23/weder-rechts-noch-links/.

“Germany’s Woeful Asylum Infrastructure,” Spiegel Online International (October 6, 2014): http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/abuse-case-reveals-terrible-state-of-refugee-homes-in-germany-a-995537.html.

Green, Simon. “Divergent Traditions, Converging Responses: Immigration and Integration Policy in the UK and Germany.” German Politics 16, no. 1 (2007): 95-115.

Gruner, Sabine. “ ‘The Others Don’t Want…’. Small-Scale Segregation: Hegemonic Public Discourses and Racial Boundaries in German Neighbourhoods.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36, no. 2 (2010): 275-292.

Jacobs, Dirk, and Andrea Rea. “The End of National Models? Integration Courses and Citizenship Trajectories in Europe”. Paper presented at the EUSA Conference, Montreal, Canada, May 2007: http://aei.pitt.edu/7916/1/jacobs-d-11i.pdf.

Joppke, Christian. “Beyond National Models: Civic Integration Policies for Immigrants in Western Europe.” West European Politics 30, no. 1 (2007): 1-22.

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Mestheneos, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Ioannidi. “Obstacles of Refugee Integration in the European Union Member States.” Journal of Refugee Studies 15, no. 3 (2002): 304-320.

Stute, Dennis. “Anti-Islamization Protests Expand in Germany.” Deutsche Welle (December 7, 2014): http://www.dw.de/anti-islamization-protests-expand-in-germany/a-18113657

Taras, Raymond.” ‘Islamophobia Never Stands Still’: Race, Religion, and Culture.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 36:3 (2012): 417-33.

Taras, R. “Islamoskepticism and its Counter-Narratives: Transnational Identity, Cultural Wars, and Religion’s Place.” In European Identity and Culture: Narratives of Transnational Belonging, edited by R. Friedman and M. Thiel, 137-55. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2012.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A New Beginning: Refugee Integration in Europe. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2013. http://www.refworld.org/docid/522980604.html.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR Global Trends 2012. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2013. http://unhcr.org/globaltrendsjune2013/UNHCR%20GLOBAL%20TRENDS%202012_V08_web.pdf

“Unwort des Jahres: ‘Alternativlos’ Siegt vor ‘Integrationsverweigerer’,” Topnews.de (January 18, 2011): http://www.topnews.de/unwort-des-jahres-alternativlos-siegt-vor-integrationsverweigerer-393587.

Wallace Goodman, Sara. “The Politics and Policies of Immigration in Germany.” German Politics and Society 85, no. 25 (2007): 99-110.


[1] Simon Green, “Divergent Traditions, Converging Responses: Immigration and Integration Policy in the UK and Germany,” German Politics 16, no. 1 (2007): 95.

[2] Green, “Divergent Traditions”: 98.

[3] Green, “Divergent Traditions”: 101.

[4] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], UNHCR Global Trends 2012 (Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2013), 14.

[5] Sara Wallace Goodman, “The Politics and Policies of Immigration in Germany,” German Politics and Society 85, no. 25 (2007): 99.

[6] Green, “Divergent Traditions”: 99.

[7] Wallace Goodman, “The Politics and Policies of Immigration in Germany,” 100.

[8] Kate Connolly, “Angela Merkel Declares Death of German Multiculturalism,” The Guardian (October 17, 2010):  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/17/angela-merkel-germany-multiculturalism-failures .

[9] Liz Fekete, “Understanding the European-wide Assault on Multiculturalism,” (Institute of Race Relations, April 21, 2011), http://www.irr.org.uk/news/understanding-the-european-wide-assault-on-multiculturalism/ .

[10] “Battling Racism: UN Body Reprimands Germany over Sarrazin Comments,” Spiegel Online International (April 18, 2013): http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/un-anti-racism-committee-reprimands-germany-over-sarrazin-comments-a-895247.html .

[11]  Fekete, “Understanding the European-wide Assault on Multiculturalism,” paragraph 3.

[12] “Unwort des Jahres: ‘Alternativlos’ siegt for ‘Integrationsverweigerer’,” Topnews.de (January 18, 2011):  http://www.topnews.de/unwort-des-jahres-alternativlos-siegt-vor-integrationsverweigerer-39358.

[13] Bergman, W. “Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany since Unification,” In Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany after Unification, ed. H. Kurthen, W. Bergmann, and R. Erb (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), 22.

[14] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration: Residence Law and Policy on Migration and Integration in Germany (Berlin, Germany: Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2014), http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/EN/Broschueren/2014/migration_and_integration.pdf?__blob=publicationFile, 12.

[15] Bergmann, W. “Antisemitism and Xenophobia in Germany since Unification,” 29.

[16] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014, 17.

[17] Ibid., 18.

[18] Ibid., 50.

[19] Asylum Information Database, Statistics: Germany, 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/germany/statistics .

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid. The difference between total decisions and positive protection decisions does not mean that the remaining numbers of cases were all rejected. The figures for 2013 and 2014 include a considerable number of otherwise closed or discontinued cases, including those where another state is responsible for the asylum procedure under EU regulations. In both years, the “otherwise closed/discontinued” category accounts for over one third of all decisions.

[22] Marcus Lütticke, “Syrian Refugees in Germany,” Deutsche Welle (June 10, 2014): http://www.dw.de/syrian-refugees-in-germany/a-17697536 .

[23] European Resettlement Network, “Germany Extends Humanitarian Admission Programme to an Additional 10,000 Syrian Refugees,” http://www.resettlement.eu/news/germany-extends-humanitarian-admission-programme-additional-10000-syrian-refugees .

[24] Ibid.

[25] Lütticke, “Syrian Refugees in Germany.”

[26] Ibid.

[27] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014, 151.

[28] Evelyn Ersanilli and Ruud Koopmans, “Rewarding Integration? Citizenship Regulations and the Socio-Cultural Integration of Immigrants in the Netherlands, France and Germany,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36, no. 5 (2010): 777.

[29] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration Report 2013 (Berlin, Germany: Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2014), http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/2014/migrationsbericht_2013_de.pdf?__blob=publicationFile, 154-156.

[30] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration 2014, 159-160. Deportation could be suspended, for instance, in situations where a deportation ban has been instituted, preventing returns to a particular country of origin due to a situation in that country.

[31] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration Report 2013. (Note: The report is only available in German, and the terms used in this paper are translations of the German original).

[32] Ibid., 215.

[33] Ibid., 125.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Sergio Carrera, “A Typology of Different Integration Programmes in the EU,” Briefing Paper, Centre for European Policy Studies (Order Form No. IP/C/LIBE/OF/2005-167), 2006b: http://www.libertysecurity.org .

[36] Christian Joppke, “Beyond National Models: Civic Integration Policies for Immigrants in Western Europe,” West European Politics 30, no. 1 (2007).

[37] This document of the German Government provides a basic outline of Germany’s policy on migration and integration in a European context. It explains the legal foundations and requirements determined by law on asylum, residence and freedom of movement, and contains structural data and information on immigration in general and on specific groups.

[38] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014, 51.

[39] Ibid., 81-82.

[40] Stefan Dege, “Questions of Equality at the Fore in German Islam Conference,” Deutsche Welle (May 6, 2013): http://www.dw.de/questions-of-equality-at-the-fore-in-german-islam-conference/a-16794063 .

[41] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration: Residence Law and Policy on Migration and Integration in Germany (Berlin, Germany: Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2011), http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/EN/Broschueren/Migration_und_Integration_en.html , 54. (Accessed July 15, 2014. This document has in the meantime been removed and replaced with the 2014 version).

[42] Ibid., 178-179.

[43] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014, 167-169.

[44] UNHCR, A New Beginning: Refugee Integration in Europe (Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR, 2013), 47.

[45] Special assistance is available for persons with multiple barriers, especially youth, women, and those with limited or no literacy skills. Ibid., 58.

[46] Carrera, “A Typology of Different Integration Programmes”: 4.

[47] Jacobs and Rea, “The End of National Models?”

[48] Dirk Jacobs and Andrea Rea, “The End of National Models? Integration Courses and Citizenship Trajectories in Europe,” paper presented at the EUSA Conference, Montreal, Canada (May 2007), http://aei.pitt.edu/7916/1/jacobs-d-11i.pdf .

[49] Jacobs and Rea, “The End of National Models?”

[50] UNHCR, A New Beginning, 92.

[51] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2011, 79.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, “Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory (Residence Act),” (2014): http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_aufenthg/residence_act.pdf .

[54] Joppke, “Beyond National Models”: 14.

[55] UNHCR, A New Beginning, 58.

[56] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2011, 55.

[57] Federal Office for Migration and Refugees [FOMR], “Foreign Nationals with Residence Titles Issued from 2005 Onwards: Conditions of Attendance and Costs for Foreign Nationals,” (2013a): http://www.bamf.de/EN/Willkommen/DeutschLernen/Integrationskurse/TeilnahmeKosten/Aufenthaltstitel_nach/aufenthaltstitel_nach-node.html .

[58] Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, “Integration Course for Immigrants,” (2013b): http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/EN/Publikationen/Flyer/Lernen-Sie-Deutsch/lernen-sie-deutsch.pdf?__blob=publicationFile .

[59] UNHCR, A New Beginning, 30.

[60] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2011, 73-76.

[61] Nadje Al-Ali, Richard Black, and Khalid Koser, “Refugees and Transnationalism: The Experience of Bosnians and Eritreans in Europe,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 27, no. 4 (2001).

[62] Until the end of 2014, residence permits for refugees awaiting determination were limited to the town or district in which their place of accommodation was located.

[63] Federal Government, Press and Information Office, “Asylum and Refugee Policy: Improvements for Asylum-Seekers”:  http://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/EN/Artikel/2014/10_en/2014-10-29-verbesserungen-fuer-asylbewerber-beschlossen_en.html

[64] Philip Anderson, “‘You Don’t Belong here in Germany . . .’: On the Social Situation of Refugee Children in Germany,” Journal of Refugee Studies 14, no. 2 (2001): 187.

[65] Ibid., 189.

[66] Residential hostels are camp-like places of residence in often remote locations, where refugees (sometimes unaccompanied minors) are crowded together during the frequently lengthy waiting time for a determination on their case.  Ibid., 192.

[67] Ibid., 195-96.

[68] Ibid., 788.

[69] Sabine Gruner, “‘The Others Don’t Want . . .’. Small-Scale Segregation: Hegemonic Public Discourses and Racial Boundaries in German Neighbourhoods,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36, no. 2 (2010): 283.

[70] In this section, I am making general reference to common discourse among the German population, based on having grown up in the country and returning on a regular basis. My remarks are not based on literary references or empirical research.

[71] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014.

[72] Ibid., 188.

[73] Ibid., 190.

[74] Ibid., 189.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Patrick Gensing, “Anti-EU-Parteien: ‘Weder Rechts noch Links’ [Anti-EU-Parties: ‘Neither Right nor Left’],” Publikative.org (May 23, 2014): http://www.publikative.org/2014/05/23/weder-rechts-noch-links/ .

[78] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 188.

[79] Jacobs and Rea, “The End of National Models?”.

[80] Dennis Stute, “Anti-Islamization Protests Expand in Germany,” Deutsche Welle (December 7, 2014): http://www.dw.de/anti-islamization-protests-expand-in-germany/a-18113657 .

[81] Ibid.

[82] “Germany’s Woeful Asylum Infrastructure,” Spiegel Online International (October 6, 2014): http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/abuse-case-reveals-terrible-state-of-refugee-homes-in-germany-a-995537.html .

[83] Ibid.

[84] Joppke, “Beyond National Models”: 1.

[85] Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley, “Xenophobia in Germany,” in Imagined Liberation: Xenophobia, Citizenship and Identity in South Africa, Germany and Canada (Stellenbosch, South Africa: Sun Press, 2013), 133.

[86] Ibid: 138.

[87] Ibid: 143-144.

[88] R. Taras, “Islamoskepticism and its Counter-Narratives: Transnational Identity, Cultural Wars, and Religion’s Place,” In European Identity and Culture: Narratives of Transnational Belonging, ed. R. Friedman and M. Thiel (Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2012), 137-55.

[89] Ibid: 144.

[90] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Migration and Integration, 2014, 190.

[91] Raymond Taras, “‘Islamophobia Never Stands Still’: Race, Religion, and Culture,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 36:3 (2012): 425.

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