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Germany imposes integration laws on asylum seekers

19 April 20161 comment

Germany this month announced new laws requiring migrants and refugees to integrate into society in return for being allowed to live and work in the country.

Under the coalition government’s measures, asylum seekers face cuts to support if they reject mandatory integration measures such as language classes or lessons in German laws or cultural basics.

German chancellor Angela Merkel says the aim of Germany’s first ever integration law is to make it easier for asylum seekers to gain access to the German labour market, with the government promising 100,000 new “working opportunities”, mostly in low-paid ‘workfare’ jobs.

A law requiring employers to give preference to German or EU job applicants over asylum seekers will be suspended for three years.

“The core idea is to attempt to integrate as many people in the labor force as possible,” Ms Merkel said.

The expanded orientation courses for migrants would still be encouraged even for those with little chance of receiving asylum, with the idea that some will stay and would benefit from them, while others would still profit from the training when they return to their homelands.germany migration

Other elements of the plan include reducing the waiting times for integration courses teaching German, but making language classes mandatory for more migrants.

In an attempt to prevent migrant ghettos, the new regulations would take away benefits from anyone who moves away from where they have been officially resettled. Details will be determined by individual states, but migrants could be allowed to resettle if they find a job elsewhere.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel described the agreement as an historic step, saying he was convinced that “in a few years’ time this law will be seen as a milestone for our immigration law”.

More than 476,000 asylum applications were registered in Germany in 2015, with officials putting the total number of arrivals at over a million.

Yet the number of asylum seekers arriving in central Europe has dropped off considerably in recent weeks due to Balkan countries sealing off their borders and the European Union and Turkey agreeing on a deal to return refugees arriving in Greece.

Germany announced earlier this month that the number of refugees entering the country via Austria had dropped off seven-fold.

Switzerland has said the number of people seeking asylum in the country had dropped for the fourth consecutive month, with officials registering 1,992 requests in March, roughly 25 per cent fewer than in February.

Also, Austria has announced it was ready to step up measures to discourage people from making the journey to Europe from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Austria has announced a cap of 37,500 asylum applications for 2016. After receiving about 90,000 applications for asylum last year, the country has so far registered between 16,000 and 17,000 applications in 2016.

And Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told was reported as saying his country would close off the Brenner Pass border crossing if Italy refused to accept people turned back by Austria.

While the numbers of people arriving in central Europe have dropped off, witnesses report desperate scenes in camps on either side of the Mediterranean.

The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, has warned that “alarming” numbers of potential migrants were gathering in Libya to cross the Mediterranean.

Around 4,000 people were rescued from the Mediterranean between Libya and Sicily on earlier this month

And Pope Francis visited a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have arrived via the sea from Turkey in the past year. The island is at the centre of the controversial refugee deal between the EU and Turkey.

Sarah Gilmour
AMES Australia Staff Writer