German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented her government’s new refugee integration law on Wednesday after a coalition summit in Meseberg in eastern Germany.
Taking a carrot and stick approach, the legislation stipulates refugees must learn German in return for financial support.
“I think it’s a milestone that the federal government passes an integration law. An integration law according to the principle of challenging and rewarding, rewarding and challenging.”
The new law which still needs parliamentary approval, is designed to push refugees into obtaining skills needed to find employment and thus not become a burden on the German taxpayer.
Merkel has been strongly criticised for opening the door to record numbers of refugees and is taking a firm line, introducing cultural training programmes, regulating settlement areas while threating to reduce benefits for non participation.
The law has been criticised by some aid agencies as threatening refugees’ constitutional rights.
Integration law rules
- Each refugee who stands a chance of remaining in the country must attend 600 hours of German-language teaching.
- They must also attend 100 hours of cultural “orientation” that end with a “Living in Germany” test.
- Jobs: The government intends to create some 100,000 “one-euro jobs” – work schemes that were designed for the long-term unemployed, typically paid by a government subsidy of between 1 euro and 2.50 euros an hour as compensation – on top of existing benefits. Newcomers can have their benefits reduced to the bare minimum (and only in tokens, not cash) if they refuse to work.
- Education and training: Under the new law, refugees will be allowed to apply for training courses at a much earlier stage – after three months, whether or not their asylum applications have been processed. If they have been in Germany for 15 months, they can also apply for money for job training programs. However, asylum applicants from a so-called “safe” country of origin – a category the German government is constantly expanding – are not entitled to training.
- Permanent residency: The deadline for refugees being given permanent residency status has been extended from three to five years – and only on the condition they have learned adequate German and secured their own living.
- Obligatory residence: From now on, and for the next three years, regional governments will be allowed to determine where refugees may settle – either by banning them from certain areas or by allocating them to certain areas. Refugees who have found work or a place on a training program are exempt from the rule.