How effective is Germany's integration law?

The grand coalition in Germany on Wednesday agreed on a proposal for a new integration law aimed at facilitating refugees' access to work and education. The proposed law also foresees penalties for those who refuse integration measures, as well as residency restrictions. The German press hauls the proposal over the coals.

Open/close all quotes
Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DE) /

Support only for those with a chance of staying

Deutschlandradio Kultur argues that the coalition's proposal has a fundamental flaw:

“This is the biggest weakness of the law: the strict, schematic differentiation between refugee groups according to their prospects of remaining in the country. The idea is clear: those who won't stay don't need education or language courses. The example of the Afghanis shows just how unsatisfactory the proposed law is in this respect. Just under half of this group will be granted protection. As a result none are receiving language courses. That is not only unfair on an individual level, it also cannot be in the interests of the society that will be living with these people for a long time to come.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

State can't regulate integration on its own

Der Tagesspiegel also has a fundamental problem with the new law:

“It's an illusion. In any case it reinforces an illusion, namely that integration is in good hands as a task of the state, and that people can only be integrated by threatening them with penalties - catchphrase 'benefit cuts'. Integration is not a political but a social and cultural task. Quite rightly, the law does not impose regulations on the population of the receiving country. Nevertheless they are the ones who must act, and welcome the foreigners as their neighbours. In other words we're more or less where our lawgivers are. No longer at square one, but not much further either.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

With this approach no one will be integrated

The new German law is based on a narrow concept of integration and will actually do more to prevent it than encourage it, the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung complains:

“It is focussed on the labour market. No mention is made of school or social work at schools, or of the associations and religious groups that are so vital to integration. The range of integration courses needs to be expanded. … It is unfair and unwise to categorise youths according to the Cinderella principle: those who have good prospects of staying receive an education while those who supposedly have little chance are left hanging around. ... [The residency obligation] firstly obstructs integration and secondly contravenes the terms of the Geneva Refugee Convention for those with refugee status. According to Article 26 refugees have the right to choose their place of residence.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

German politicians get it right

By contrast the conservative daily La Vanguardia is full of admiration for Germany's new integration law:

“Those who already envied [the German politicians'] ability to form a coalition government in the interest of the country as a whole now have a fresh argument: the coalition partners are offering a future to the million people fleeing war and poverty who arrived overnight, so to speak. Judging by the plan presented yesterday we can infer that this wave of migrants, the biggest Europe has seen since the Second World War, was correct in heading for Germany rather than other European countries. Angela Merkel has shown that she possesses one of the most valuable qualities in a political leader: the ability to put her vision of the future above short-term political goals.”