Support and Challenge: German Bundestag Approves the Integration Act

German Bundestag passed the Integration Act on July 7. The guiding principle on which the new legislation is based is that of “support and challenge”. Refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay permanently will be eligible to take integration courses and to take advantage of job and training opportunities sooner than before. But they will also be required to work on their own integration. Those asylum seekers who refuse to take an integration course or who do not meet their duties to cooperate will have their benefits curtailed.
  • Legal certainty while undergoing vocational training: Refugees whose deportation has been suspended will have the right to remain while they are undergoing vocational training and after they are taken on. Those who are taken on by their training enterprise will be given a two-year right of residency. This gives legal certainty to refugees and their training enterprises.
  • Making it easier to do vocational training: Young refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay and other asylum seekers are to be able to start and complete a qualified vocational training course wherever possible. To make this easier, they too will now be eligible for a training grant.

  • Taking integration courses at an early stage: More integration courses will be on offer so that refugees can start learning German quickly. The class sizes are to be increased and course providers will be required to publish information about what courses they have on offer.

  • Residence rule provides better means of control: Integration is difficult if too many refugees move to urban centres. That is why the federal states can assign them a place of residence during the first three years they are here.

  • Job opportunities for refugees: Refugees are to engage in meaningful employment while their claim for asylum is being processed, for example serving meals or tending to green spaces in their refugee shelter. On 1 August the Federal Government will be launching its new “Refugee Integration Measures” programme for 100,000 asylum seekers.

  • Labour market priority check suspended: The Federal Employment Agency will also suspend its labour market priority check for a period of three years, depending on the regional job situation.. This will make it easier for refugees to take up work.

  • Uniform rule on permission to reside: In future, asylum seekers will be granted permission to reside when they are issued with their arrival certificate. This will ensure that asylum seekers have legal certainty and are given early access to the labour market and integration courses.
  • Settlement permit dependent on integration: The German government is creating a powerful incentive to integrate with regard to unlimited settlement permits. Only those recognised refugees who have shown they are willing to integrate will be given a settlement permit.

Work is the best means of integration

Federal Labour Minister Andrea Nahles pointed out that the first thing many refugees ask for in German is work. 70 per cent of them are under the age of 30. Nahles said that successful integration meant that they went from receiving social benefits to putting a great deal back into society.

Two realities

Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière highlighted the fact that many refugees had already taken advantage of the opportunities available to them. He said: “They have done vocational training or learned a trade. They are studying for a degree or have set up a business that employs people. They are helping Germany to grow. They are an enrichment to our country.”

There is, however, also another reality, de Maizière said. People were able to live here without integrating into society. They hardly spoke any German or did not want to. “And they don’t have a proper job. A few young men are responsible for a remarkable number of criminal offences. These insights into the two realities that exist in our country are painful,” the Minister said.

The population as a whole was willing to integrate those who needed protection and who had good prospects of being allowed to stay here permanently, he added. “We want to foster that willingness. That is why we need integration measures. But we also need people to be able to trust in the fact that the rule of law will ensure that existing legislation is implemented.”

Further information [German]