Participants of an integration course | Photo: Picturea-alliance/dpa/W.Grubitzsch
Participants of an integration course | Photo: Picturea-alliance/dpa/W.Grubitzsch

Around 17% of participants of integration courses in Germany are illiterate; the vast majority of them are refugees, said the head of Germany’s immigration office BAMF in an interview with German media. Their integration into the labor market is considered problematic.

Every sixth participant of an integration course in Germany cannot read or write, said Hans-Eckhard Sommer, head of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in an interview with the regional newspaper Rheinische Post on Sunday. This high number presents a problem for the integration of the participants into the labor market, Sommer said.

Most people of concern are refugees, Sommer added.

Some illiterate participants manage to acquire a B1 or A2 language proficiency at the end of the integration course, which Sommer calls a "great achievement." Nonetheless, almost half finish the course below this level. This makes it harder for them to learn the German language and to find employment, Sommer explained.

Currently there are 450,000 refugees in Germany registered as seeking employment.

Skilled labor from EU countries

To fill Germany’s shortage of skilled workers, Sommer recommended looking elsewhere in Europe rather than attempting to attract skilled labor from developing countries. He said the recruitment of nationals from other EU countries for the labor market was easier in terms of integration as well as for legal reasons. Between EU countries, there are no major legal hurdles to overcome.

Sommer also warned that a strategy focused on attracting professionals from developing countries would impede development in those regions. "We have to create much more training and employment in those countries. If we don't support the development of those states or even hinder it, we risk creating the next refugees ourselves." 

Sommer said the government should focus its strategy on finding workers inside Europe. The BAMF was "always aware of the fact that there are only few skilled workers among those who arrive as refugees in our country."

What are integration courses?

Integration courses are a combination of language courses and orientation courses. The language courses make up the main part: they consist of 600 learning hours and conclude with a test at the B1 level.

Most foreigners who come to Germany and have a residence permit are obliged to take part, unless they already speak German. The immigration authority (Ausländerbehörde) makes the final decision over whether someone has to take part. Refugees, people with another protection status, people who join family in Germany or who have gotten a residence permit due to employment have to attend the classes.

•••• ➤ More information on integration courses in Germany


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