Germany has translated the first 20 articles of its constitution into Arabic and printed 10,000 copies for distribution at registration centers, a move meant to help speed up the integration of about 500,000 asylum seekers into German society, politicians said.
Germany is expected to take in about 800,000 refugees this year — many more than its neighbors, which have been more reluctant to resettle people fleeing poverty and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria and elsewhere.
Now politicians are worrying about how to best integrate refugees with little or no knowledge of the German language or culture, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Wednesday.
While no one will be forced to give up his or her religion or “change her private life,” he told German newspaper Bild, newcomers will be expected to respect democratic values, including, he said, the separation of church and state, gender equality, gay rights and freedom of expression. Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated, he added.
“There is a culture of freedom and responsibility, of rights and duties, which we don’t want to give up,” Gabriel told the newspaper. “People who come here must not only learn the German language but also the rules of the game of living together.”
The decision to translate parts of the document follows German newspaper Bild’s move in August to print four pages of instructions in Arabic to help people enroll their children in school, apply for government assistance and find shelter. It also included a map of Berlin pointing out registration centers, the central station and other important locations.
The government has also organized free language and culture classes, and employers have called for easier ratification processes of skills obtained abroad to ease refugees’ entry in the workforce.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in August against a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment hitting German cities and towns if refugees aren’t integrated quickly. And experts fear xenophobic attacks targeting refugees will increase with time, Reuters said.
“Very quickly you could have a situation like we had in the early 1990s, where shelters full of refugees [fleeing war in the Balkans] are being attacked,” one senior official (who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue) in Berlin told Reuters. “Something like this can quickly get out of the control of the politicians.”
Despite the government’s efforts, evidence of growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany appears to be multiplying. In August police launched an investigation into a series of almost daily arson attacks against refugee shelters, many in eastern Germany, where competition for jobs is fiercer than in the more affluent western part of the country.