The title of the German interior minister’s masterplan – “Measures to order, control and limit immigration” – is apt. The 63-point document is mostly about rules and sanctions and contains little about social aspects of migration, such as integration.
The German interior minister Horst Seehofer’s plan, released yesterday, covers several aspects of migration policy reform, from the introduction of one-stop asylum seeker “anchor centers” to new border control measures. Few parts of the document have been uncontroversial, including the section on integration.
In the plan, the subject of integration is covered in nine points, with the preface:
“We want people who remain in Germany with protection status to integrate into our society and values. Successful integration is the prerequisite for social cohesion. We expect all immigrants to identify with our country and to recognize our values and way of life. The integration process begins with participation in an integration course, which we want to ensure is attended by those who are meant to take part. We want to ensure participation and success in existing integration programs. We want to improve the promotion of integration projects for the good of everyone, and examine even more carefully whether the objectives of the projects will be achieved.”
Points 44 to 52 of the plan include details about how to achieve these goals through the strict enforcement of participation in integration courses and penalties for failure to attend.
Germany already has a national “integration
law” which states that migrants have to take part in
integration programs and risk losing social benefits if they don’t comply. When it was introduced in 2016, the
law was criticized heavily on several counts, including over penalties for those who fail to attend integration courses.
A plan with little humanity: critics
Two years later, in a radically different political context, Seehofer's master plan is facing similar criticism for its emphasis on deterrence and repressive measures against migrants.
“We don’t want you here, but would you kindly integrate,” is the main message according to the refugee advocacy group, Pro Asyl.
Other aid organizations too are questioning the interior minister's earlier pledge that an “asylum revolution” would be accompanied by increased efforts on integration, according to the news program Tagesschau.
“The plan focuses on stricter administrative and procedural controls and neglects the most important thing, the people,” said Dominik Bartsch, the UNHCR representative in Germany.
Ulrich Lilie, head of the charity Diakonie, said the plan follows “those who want to denounce the humanitarian principles of our society.”
The editor of the daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger agrees: “(The plan) allegedly aims to maintain a balance between a limited capacity to take in migrants and humanity. But you have to search a long time for the humanity.”The implication in the masterplan is that integration can be achieved by applying stricter controls on participation in courses, the paper suggests. Yet integration remains “a huge social task that will occupy Germany for years to come and will demand a great deal of (the country)."