Germany vows to improve integration after banker furore

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The German government pledged Wednesday to do more to improve the integration of immigrants, particularly on teaching the language, after a controversial book by a banker convulsed the country.

"Around 1.1 million adults in this country do not speak German well enough," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters as he presented a new national integration programme.

"Language, language and more language" is the focus, the minister said. "Speaking German is the starting point for everything."

He said that the first wave of immigrants into Germany, so-called guest workers in the 1960s and the 1970s, and the most recently arrived were reasonably well integrated into German society.

"But for the generations between the two, for nearly 20 years, nothing, or little, in any case not enough, was done," he said.

The government stressed that the timing of the publication of its national integration programme had been planned for some time and had nothing to do with the polemic on immigration sparked by central banker Thilo Sarrazin.

In the book, Sarrazin says Europe's top economy is being undermined and overwhelmed by immigrants and that allowing in millions of "guest workers" was a "gigantic error."

The Bundesbank's board has asked President Christian Wulff to dismiss Sarrazin, 65, since it is unable to fire political appointees itself. Wulff has requested the opinion of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.

Merkel and other senior political figures have slammed Sarrazin's comments -- he also said Jews "share a certain gene" -- but surveys indicated that the remarks have aroused considerable sympathy among the population at large.

According to official figures, nearly one in five young people without German nationality, which many second and third generation immigrants do not have, leave school with no qualifications.

Other figures show that people in Germany of Turkish origin, who number around three million and make up the largest minority, are significantly more likely to be living below the poverty line.

© 2010 AFP

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