Mid-debate, Germany holds 'integration summit'
Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted on Wednesday a one-day summit aimed at improving the integration of immigrants, two weeks after branding multiculturalism in Germany a complete failure.
"Children from immigrant families are twice as likely as German children to not complete their schooling, and foreign youths are twice as likely to have no vocational training," Merkel said ahead of the gathering in Berlin.
"Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world are well integrated here. Today's integration summit should give immigrants the courage to follow suit," she told the Passauer Neue Presse local daily.
The summit is the fourth since 2006, but this one has attracted more attention after months of fiery debate about the integration of the 16 million people in Germany with what the government calls an "immigration background."
The issue rose up the political agenda after a member of the central bank, Thilo Sarrazin, argued in a best-selling book that Germany's Muslim minority -- 2.5 million of them of Turkish origin -- was making the country "more stupid."
Merkel's cabinet last week agreed new draft laws against forced marriages and tough measures against immigrants who fail to integrate into society, for example penalties for failing to attend "integration courses."
The summit involved around 120 people including government ministers, members of immigrant organisations as well as representatives from the economy, science, media, sport, trade unions and religious communities.
Merkel said in a speech on October 16 that efforts until now towards multiculturalism in Germany have "failed, totally", because of a lack of integration of immigrants into society.
© 2010 AFP