Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with ethnic leaders

12th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 July 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday with ethnic leaders in Berlin to announce government assistance to minorities which federal leaders fear are developing into separate societies.

12 July 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday with ethnic leaders in Berlin to announce government assistance to minorities which federal leaders fear are developing into separate societies.

The 90 community leaders at the summit were to adopt a "national integration plan" containing 400 promises for improvements.

Amid fears that poor minorities may be radicalized, business leaders also attended the "integration summit." They have been pressed to train and employ larger numbers of immigrant youths.

However, four major Turkish groups boycotted the summit in protest at legislation passed last week which raises the hurdles for newly wed Turkish women moving to Germany to live with their husbands. They must be over 18 and pass a language test.

Kenan Kolat, chairman of a secular association, Turkish Community, said in a television interview that his group would challenge the legislation as discriminatory in Germany's constitutional court after it had been gazetted into law.

The previous day, the German government had approved a package of 150 measures to bring immigrant communities into mainstream German society, including an expansion of nearly free German-language courses.

The length of time that each immigrant can attend such a course was increased by 50 per cent.

Private language schools and non-profits, which obtain federal grants to conduct the courses, must also provide baby-sitting for mothers while they learn German and there will be extra grants to train the illiterate and difficult-to-educate teenagers.

The federal government also aims to set up a network of sponsors to help immigrant families.

Maria Boehmer, the federal migration commissioner, said she found it was "totally exaggerated" for the summit to be boycotted by Kolat's group, the Ditib network of mosques, the Turkish Parents' Association and the Council of Germans of Turkish Extraction.

Germany has a population of nearly 82 million, of whom 7.3 million are not German citizens, according to official statistics.

But the federal government estimates that ethnic minorities total 15 million people, including those who are have obtained German citizenship by naturalization or because they were children of mixed marriages between a German and a foreigner.

DPA

Subject: German news

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