Photo Gallery: Germany's Changing Face and Myriad Problems

Foto: Hans Blossey / Picture Alliance / DPA

Germany and Immigration The Changing Face of the Country

Many Germans feel foreign in their own country and are afraid that immigration is changing their homeland rapidly. Every fifth person in Germany comes from an immigration background and that number will continue to climb. What does that mean for the country? By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Maike Manz runs her hand across the patient's belly and hopes that the young woman in the hospital bed will at least have an inkling of what she's trying to tell her. "We're going to conduct an ultrasound now and then we will decide how to proceed," the gynecologist says, slowly and as clearly as she can.

The pregnant woman is from Guinea-Bissau and has only been living in Germany for the past nine months. She peers on helplessly as the doctor does a miming gesture to try to help her to understand. Adhered to her stomach is the sensor of a CTG device that measures babies' heart rates. She's in her 36th week of pregnancy and is expecting twins. Aside from the word "baby," she hasn't understood anything, because she doesn't speak any German.

Manz looks at her mobile phone display in the hopes it will provide some relief. It's quarter to five and the translator, a relative of the patient, was supposed to be here 45 minutes ago. She shrugs her shoulders. "Different cultures, different understandings of time," says Manz, who has worked at the maternity ward of the Mariahilf Hospital in Hamburg's Harburg district since last year.

During prenatal checkups and the actual birth, Manz, who is the chief physician here, always carries index cards with basic vocabulary in Arabic, Farsi, Russian, Romanian and Turkish. When she chooses new staff, Manz also tries to make hires that can help her department cope with the new challenges.

Indeed, that is one reason why Sufan Abdulhadi has become something of a star at the hospital over the past three years. The Libyan began his doctor residency in Germany in 2008 and he has been working at Mariahilf since 2014.

Abdulhadi is something of a bridge between the cultures. Arab families feel they're in good hands with Abdulhadi and it's easy for them to explain things to him. "I've spoken more Arabic here in recent years than German," he says. "It's unbelievably important for women who come to us that during the most important moment of their lives, there is a doctor nearby who can understand them."

Unique Challenges

Close to 40 percent of the mothers who give birth at Mariahilf were born outside of Germany. Harburg, where the hospital is located, is neither one of Hamburg's more prosperous areas nor is it particularly poor. The statistics are similar at many other big city hospitals around the country. In many parts of Germany, obstetrics has become a multicultural career field, with the unique challenges that come along with it.

The latest numbers from the Federal Statistical Office show that almost every fourth child born in Germany in 2016 had a foreign mother. Female immigrants are indeed contributing significantly to the fact that Germany's birth rate is rising again. Already today, one out of five people living in the country has immigrant roots.

Germany has obviously become a country of immigration - and one that is changing rapidly. And although economists and politicians are fond of emphasizing all the positive aspects of this development - Germany's aging society, for example, has been an issue for decades - there's also a large segment of society that is anything but pleased by the development.

These people are asking themselves what their heimat, or homeland, will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years. They harbor doubts that the government is able to solve the problems already arising out from the lack of integration among some immigrant groups. Some fear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is leading the country toward a bleak future with an aimless immigration policy - a policy that allows migrants to come to Germany and apply for asylum rather than a policy that actively seeks to bring in highly skilled workers. A policy that ultimately means that even those whose asylum applications are rejected are ultimately allowed to stay anyway.

Such fears of uncontrolled migration are nothing new. They helped catapult populist German politician Thilo Sarrazin's 2010 book "Deutschland schafft sich ab," which can perhaps best be translated as "Germany Is Doing Away With Itself" to the top of the best-seller lists. But at the time when Sarrazin was promoting his theories about Muslim immigrants' fondness for procreation, only 40,000 new asylum-seekers were entering Germany each year. At the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015 , that many people were arriving in the country within just a few days.

Swapping Out the Germans

Since then, just under 1.4 million refugees have arrived in Germany. One indication of how deeply the anger and rage are simmering in many people is the dangerous power of the conspiracy theory which holds that the chancellor, together with other sinister powers, is planning to swap out the ethnic German population and replace it with foreigners. Michael Butter, a professor of American Studies at the University of Tübingen, who is also an expert in conspiracy theories, says it is currently one of the most popular conspiracy theories circulating in Germany right now.

Part of the reason it became so popular is that society, politicians and the media haven't discussed some of the developments openly and factually - at times out of fear of playing into the hands of xenophobes. Too often, the debate is driven by people more focused on showing off their own worldliness and tolerance than actually addressing the problems. But hopes that the conflicts created through poorly managed immigration might somehow disappear behind the optimism have been dashed.

Large segments of the German population are suffering from a kind of stress relating to identity. Germans without any immigration background in their own families fear that immigrants could strip them of their Heimat, their sense of home. At the same time, Germans with immigrant backgrounds feel marginalized and foreign. But it's an altogether different phenomenon for refugees arriving here. When they think about home, it tends to be the one they just lost.

'Rampant Feelings of Rootlessness'

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), reacted to that sentiment  with his recent remarks that Islam doesn't belong to Germany. Of course, the sentence in and of itself is nonsense: Around 4.7 million Muslims call Germany home. Many were born here and are very well integrated into society. There's at least one mosque in almost every large city in Germany.

But even weeks after Seehofer uttered those words, the debate over his comments still hasn't abated. In fact, polls show that large parts of the German population agree with Seehofer. But why? Because saying "Islam doesn't belong to Germany" is a way of expressing discomfort with the ways in which the country is changing. A way of saying they would like the development to stop.

Merkel's answer to Seehofer, though, namely that Islam does belong to Germany, also isn't helpful, says Cornelia Koppetsch, a professor of sociology at the Technical University of Darmstadt. She argues that both politicians sought to "create a sense of community within their political camps," but ultimately ended up promoting "rampant feelings of rootlessness."

Germany is fond of such symbolic debates, which ultimately ony serve to determine which side people fall on rather than actually addressing the real issues at hand. There are constant debates over whether to ban the burqa, even though very few women actually wear them in Germany. These discussions serve largely to provide supporters of a ban with a vehicle with which to express their sentiment that tolerance has gone far enough.

As Christianity Shrinks in Germany, Islam Grows

The CSU has now promised worried Germans that the country will remain one shaped by Judeo-Christian traditions. At the same time, though, it's also true that membership in Christian churches in the country has been shrinking for years. In 2016 alone, 350,000 people left the church.

As Christian churches close in many places in the country, Muslims are building new mosques - or they are taking over buildings that are otherwise empty.

In Hamburg's Horn neighborhood, the Islamic Center al-Nour community is even in the process of converting a former church into a mosque with the help of funding from Kuwait. The church had been empty for more than 16 years with its members having either died, left the church or moved. Nobody is being pushed out. And it also provides the Muslim community with a convenient opportunity to make use of an empty space. Some nevertheless see the conversion as symbolic.

"Allah" is now emblazoned in gold, Arabic letters where the cross was once located on the 44-meter-high tower of this former church. The Muslims want to move into their new house of worship later this year. Until that time, they will be praying in a former underground parking lot. Initially, an investor had bought the building, but his plans for the property didn't pan out and he sold it to the Islamic Center al-Nour in 2012.

Former pastor Wolfgang Weissbach tenderly refers to the former church as "my first love." Weissbach, who is now 80, began his career as a pastor here. It's a recent Tuesday in April and Weissbach has come to the visit the construction site together with two former parishioners, Ellen and Heinz-Jürgen Kammeyer. The pastor suddenly grows uneasy. "There's the baptismal font," Weissbach calls out, pointing to a white pedestal that has been upended in the middle of the construction debris behind the fence.

The three aggrieved retirees stare at the sacrilege before them. Weissbach once baptized children with water from a copper bowl that had been placed on this pedestal. It was standing next to the Kammeyers when they married in 1985.

The Kammeyers are members of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and say they would never vote for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). Even though they feel a bit odd about the fact that Muslims will soon be praying in their former church, they did join a demonstration organized by the Citizens' Initiative Pro Germany five years ago to defend the Muslims' right to convert the church into a mosque.

Since their marriage, the couple has lived in a red brick residential complex where they raised their two children and the couple still has a framed photo in their living room of the church they used to attend. These days, half the names on the doorbells here are now Turkish or Arabic. The two SPD members try to maintain good relations with their neighbors, but the extent to which their neighborhood has changed has not been lost on them.

"When you're in the minority, you feel foreign," says Heinz-Jürgen Kammeyer, his wife nodding in agreement. On some bus lines in the neighborhood, she says, she hears more "Swahili than German - people cut in line and show little consideration."

"Immigration isn't the only thing that makes it feel like we are losing our home," says Ellen Kammeyer. She says the neighborhood's social hubs have lost their meaning. "What, should I play bridge at the senior center?" she asks. She says there is a lack of space in society for the new generation of senior citizens to which the Kammeyers belong.

Graphic: Share of population with immigration background.

Graphic: Share of population with immigration background.


Ellen Kammeyer has since left the Protestant Church, but every time she goes past the construction site, she gets a lump in her throat. Her husband, especially, is bothered by the idea that men and women will soon be divided as they pray in the mosque. "Turkish families live here whose daughters are covered as soon as they start to menstruate," he says. He has nothing against Islam, he says, but the way some Muslims treat women is in his view "incompatible" with the German constitution. "This attitude that a woman is a whore just because she wears a bikini!"

A recent survey taken by Forsa, one of Germany's most respected pollsters, showed that more than one out of four Germans agree that Islam is something that "arouses fear." With its reign of terror in Syria  and Iraq and its numerous attacks in Europe, the terrorist organization Islamic State has succeeded in increasing fears of the religion. Hardly a day passes in which the media doesn't report about cases of anti-Semitism among Muslims or about how Muslim children at elementary schools are bullying those who think differently.

A Failure to Differentiate Between Islam and Islamism

Often enough, the rejection of Islam manifests itself in the form of vandalism or violence. Statistics from the German Interior Ministry show there were at least 950 attacks on Muslims and mosques last year. That includes hate speech in the internet, but also threatening letters and Nazi symbols or slogans daubed on buildings. In almost all of these cases, it is assumed that the perpetrators had right-wing extremist motives.

Many Germans make little effort to differentiate between Islam and Islamism. Muslims are constantly under pressure to justify themselves, even if they have fully integrated into German society. That, too, leads to a situation in Germany in which many feel like the country that they call home is being taken away from them.

The fear in Hanan Kayed swells again after every single terrorist attack - each time a self-proclaimed Islamic State stooge shoots or stabs people - or drives a semi-truck into a crowd. When that happens, she says, she would rather just curl up into a ball and stay in her apartment until things have quieted down.

Kayed, 26, just passed her first state examination in law and works for a small organization that helps refugees find rooms in shared apartments. She also happens to be a pious Muslim. On the night of Easter Sunday, she's sitting in a Berlin café with exposed brick walls, worn-out leather couches and colorful metal stools. She wears a blazer, a floral-themed shawl and an olive-green headscarf. Born in Cologne as the daughter of Palestinian refugees, she has lived in Berlin for the past eight years.

"I have never had any doubt about the fact that I am German," Kayed says.

It was after the attack on the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo that, for the first time, she heard someone on the train say: "You Muslims deserve to die."

A Hefty Headscarf Debate

Kayed's headscarf often causes her problems. The law student says she wants to apply for a traineeship in the public sector, but that her chances of getting one are low, even though she passed her first state legal exam with distinction. "If I didn't wear this piece of cloth on my head, they would kiss my hand and hire me - but as things are, I will have to worry the nobody will take me," she says.

Berlin is currently embroiled in a hefty debate over whether the city-state should allow a neutrality law that bans female teachers from wearing the headscarf in class to remain on the books unchanged. The current state government, a coalition of the center-left SPD, the far-left Left Party and the Green Party, is considering eliminating the legislation, but a campaign that has more than 2,000 supporters is also trying to prevent that from happening.

Graphic: Most frequent citizenship.

Graphic: Most frequent citizenship.


Last week, Serap Güler, a senior official at the state Ministry for Families and Integration in North Rhine-Westphalia and a member of Merkel's CDU party, launched the latest salvo in the ongoing headscarf debate. "It's absolutely perverse to pull a headscarf over a young girl," she said. "It sexualizes the child. And we have to take a clear stance against that." Her boss, state Integration Minister Joachim Stamp of the business-friendly Free Democrats is considering a headscarf ban for girls under the age of 14 similar to the one announced by the Austrian government to prohibit them in pre- and elementary schools. The scarf has symbolic meaning for many because it provides a visible symbol of what they view as the threat of Islam, making the issue a lightning rod for debates that, even after decades, still haven't dissipated. Bülent Ucar, a professor of Islamic theology at the University of Osnabrück, speaks of a "pathological fixation" on all sides over the headscarf.

That may partly explain why Germany seems so worked up over the issue. Few other conflicts demonstrate as clearly how difficult it can be for a country of immigrants to establish the right rules.

Because if you allow teachers to wear the headscarf, you are accepting the risk that girls will feel increasing pressure from the community to do the same. People of authority are also role models. At the same time, if you prohibit women like Hanan Kayed from being able to work as a judge, you are creating barriers for Muslim women who are self-confidently seeking to pursue a career. Ultimately, this requires tough decisions over who is worthier of protection.

Law student Kayed still dreams of one day becoming a judge or a prosecutor. She also hopes that, at some point, she will be able to live more freely in Germany than has thus far been possible.

Only one month ago, she was again attacked on the street. She was on her way to the university library when a man jostled her at a train station in central Berlin, almost pushed her to the ground and insulted her. "Headscarf-wearing bitch, miserable Muslim whore - get the fuck out of my country." It's wasn't the attacker who scared her the most - it was the passersby who stood around and stared but didn't do anything. Kayed has already made changes to her life in response. She never leaves the university past 9 p.m., she avoids public transportation and uses a car whenever possible.

What Is 'Heimat'?

There are many definitions for the German word Heimat, which doesn't quite mean home or homeland as a literal translation would suggest, but actually mixes the feeling of home with a sense of belonging. Each person has their own idea of what it means. Most of the time, the feeling of familiarity plays a role. Hermann Bausinger, a retired cultural studies professor at the University of Tübingen once wrote that "Heimat is the product of a feeling of conformity with a person's own small world. When people are no longer secure in their surroundings, when they are constantly exposed to irritations, then that Heimat is destroyed."

It's a sentence that Hanan Kayed would likely agree on, as would tile shop owner Ralf Fessler.

The 48-year-old is leaning on the railing of his balcony, which offers a sweeping view of the Swabian town of Sigmaringen and he can even see the tops of the towers of the Hohenzollern Castle, a symbol of the entire region. "It used to be so nice here," says Fessler. In the yard downstairs, two rabbits nibble blades of grass in their cage next to a pond.

"Wait, there's another one coming," he says. A black head of hair is bobbing next to the hedge, which Fessler says he last trimmed before the refugees moved into the former military barracks up on the hill. It's an African man  walking toward the town center wearing headphones. "OK, at least he was quiet," says Fessler. "But normally that's not the case." He says they used to shout over to "please be quiet." Usually, though, he says, the reply he received was something like "fuck you" or "I kill you."

'We're Afraid'

Fessler has lived for the past 28 years in the home that his father built. In 2015, the state of Baden-Württemberg repurposed the former military barracks into an initial reception center for refugees in the state. It's located just a few minutes by foot from Fessler's home and around 350 people live in the facility, with most coming from Nigeria, Morocco and Gambia. The route they take into town invariably leads right past Fessler's hedge.

At 4 p.m. a week ago Monday, men could be seen passing by on the street every few minutes. "It's hell at night," Fessler says. "They buy booze at the discount supermarket, get drunk or stoned at the train station and in the park and then stagger by us on their way back." He says he's unable to sleep half the night and that he feels like he's being terrorized.

Facing the Challenges of Integration

Fessler is angry about the stress it has caused him, especially because of the feeling he has that no one is willing to help him in this difficult situation. He says that, not too long ago, when his wife tried to take out the trash, a group of men stood in her way and spit in her face. "We were panicked that she might have caught something," Fessler says. He also claims that another man groped his daughter's genitals as she was going to the mailbox, but neighbors intervened. When Fessler travels for business, his wife and daughter now stay in a hotel or with their grandmother. "We're afraid," he says.

The businessman has pursued several possible solutions. He wrote the word "city" in Arabic on a sign in an effort to redirect hostel residents onto a different route into town. But local authorities told him that doing so wasn't allowed. He also hoped that the city would build a new sidewalk along the main road so that they wouldn't all have to walk past his home. But the municipal council rejected the idea almost unanimously. The council, said an SPD politician, didn't want to "send a message of exclusion and racism."

"Of course," Fessler says. "They also don't have a single African walking past their homes." Fessler used to be a member of the CDU but he left the party in protest against Merkel's refugee policies. In the last election, he cast his ballot for the AfD. "I am a protest voter," he says.

Fessler isn't the only former CDU voter to have turned his back on the center-right party. Many have done so for reasons relating more to a feeling of cultural alienation than to the absolute number of immigrants taken in by Germany. They were concerned about excessive immigration, but they also felt shut out by a societal expectation that they view the newcomers as a benefit to the country.

The legacy of the 1968 generation, the changing role of women, the acceptance of homosexuality, the multicultural ideal: To voters like Fessler, such ideas make their homeland feel just as foreign as do minarets and women wearing headscarves. With the CDU following Merkel to the center, they lost their political home as well. The further to the left Merkel led the party, the further to the right one element of society drifted.

A Global Shift in Sentiment

In her book "Strangers in Their Own Land," U.S. sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild examines why white workers in the American South supported the right wing Tea Party movement and then Donald Trump. Her central argument: People had the feeling that as they were struggling to obey all the rules, others -- including women, minorities and immigrants -- moved past them in the line waiting for the American Dream. And it seemed like they were allowed to ignore the rules.

A global version of this view has since developed, Hochschild argues. In Germany, it could be seen in the heated debate in February surrounding the charity Essener Tafel, which provides groceries to the needy in the city of Essen. The organization temporarily ceased accepting new foreign customers because poor German pensioners felt like they were being crowded out by immigrants.

The fact that left-wing politicians consistently told these people that their feelings were incorrect, and that immigrants and others would not steal their jobs and homes only made them more furious in the U.S., Hochschild says. Indeed, they began to believe that their problems were being ignored and covered up.

In Germany, people adhering to such views have identified politicians and the media as the primary culprits. At the height of the refugee crisis, Green Party floor leader Katrin Göring-Eckhardt launched an effort to reduce prejudice, but it backfired, proving more divisive than reconciliatory. She referred to the newcomers as a "gift for Germany."

But it was a gift that many in Germany didn't want to accept. And those like Fessler who had a problem with the new reality weren't particularly receptive to appeals that they change their worldview. Fessler now speaks of wanting to emigrate to somewhere like Uruguay or Hungary. He believes his family would have a more promising future in such places than in Germany.

A Small Minority of Troublemakers

The fact that there are occasional problems at the refugee reception center in Sigmaringen is well-known. Even as the number of crimes committed by refugees has dropped nationwide, there has been a clear spike in the Sigmaringen district, police have said in a statement. Every fifth crime suspect in the area is a refugee, the statement notes. The train station concourse in the town now closes its doors at 5:30 p.m. instead of 7:15 p.m. so that drunks can no longer create problems there.

Neff Beser operates Alfons X, a club and bar located in the train station building. Last summer, patio sales plunged by 30 percent and at times, he has even imposed temporary bans on refugees attending his club because too many women were complaining of harassment.

"The situation has actually improved again since a group of North Africans that had been creating problems suddenly disappeared. That has to be repeated over and over again to avoid an inaccurate image of refugees," he says. "It is just a small group that causes problems, but they do so quite effectively."

The police force in Sigmaringen has now been boosted by eight officers, a significant number in a town with a population of just 17,500. Nevertheless, the mood hasn't improved much, says Beser. The bar owner, who himself has Turkish roots, blames politicians. On one occasion, his doorman had to intervene because an asylum applicant had gone after a police officer and pulled her to the ground by her hair. "For too long, we were given the feeling that there was little that could be done about the troublemakers."

The fact that the number of refugees has sunk significantly hasn't done much to mitigate such concerns. In February, only 10,700 refugees reached Germany. In November 2015, that number was north of 200,000.

As is the case in Sigmaringen, it is usually just a small minority that is responsible for much of the crime, a group that generally wasn't particularly well-liked in their homelands either. Many of these people will never be able to integrate here in Germany -- but will stay nonetheless.

The German government has said it intends to deport a greater number of people. But such returns often fail because would-be deportees disappear, resist or are suddenly able to present medical certificates precluding their deportation. Just under 230,000 foreigners are currently subject to deportation and more than 60,000 of them don't even have a temporary residency permit and technically have to leave the country immediately.

Criminal elements among the migrant population also dominate coverage in the mainstream media. Reports of refugees who have raped or even killed women leave a more lasting impression than features about Syrians who are quickly able to establish themselves as dental technicians in Germany or about successful second-generation entrepreneurs from Turkey.

This has led to an additional problem: Terminology. Terms like immigrant, German, foreigner or "immigration background" no longer work particularly well in a country of immigration. Is a third-generation Turkish immigrant who even pronounces his name in the German way a migrant or a German? Or both? For how many generations after immigration can you still say a person has an immigration background? What do people really mean when they say that the number of foreigners is on the rise? Are they referring to the number of refugees? The number of foreign-looking people? Or the number of those without a German passport?

Often, they are all lumped together under the single term "immigrant:" the doctor with Turkish roots, the North African with no chance of receiving a residence permit, the seasonal laborer from Eastern Europe and the war refugee from Syria. Usually, though, there is very little connecting the various groups.

Indeed, there are huge differences between how well individuals come to terms with Germany and how well Germany comes to terms with them.

Troubles in the Education System

It's a recent Wednesday morning in April, and Malte Küppers, a 30-year-old in jeans and a hoodie, is walking through Duisburg's Marxloh neighborhood, past mobile phone shops, bridal fashion stores and three police officers who are standing around on the sidewalk. Küppers is a social worker at the Henriettenstrasse Catholic elementary school in Marxloh, a district notorious throughout Germany for its social problems. Some 95 percent of the pupils at Henriettenstrasse have immigrant backgrounds -- or, to put it another way, only 10 of the 200 pupils at the school come from German families.

This morning, Küppers is on his way to a Romanian family whose three children, he says, haven't been coming to school since the fall break. Nobody knows why. A short time later, Küppers is standing in front of the apartment building, the residents of which have scrawled their names in permanent marker on their mailboxes. The Romanian family lives on the ground floor. Küppers rings their bell and knocks, but there is no answer.

"You can't do anything about it," he says turning around. The social worker makes such house visits in Marxloh around three times a week to families whose children have missed school unexcused at least 20 times. Parents are legally obligated in Germany to send their children to school and have to pay a fine if they don't do so. Local authorities step in if the situation doesn't improve. "Many are unfamiliar with our school system," Küppers says. He usually brings an interpreter along when he makes home visits.

Back in his office at the elementary school, Küppers takes a seat. An even-tempered soul, Küppers is also a de-escalation trainer and has been working at Henriettenstrasse for the last six years. Up until three years ago, most of the children at the school came from Turkish families and some of them were German -- but almost all spoke German. Today, most of the children come from Bulgaria, Romania, Syria and Iraq -- and three-quarters of the first-graders don't speak the language at all.

Küppers strokes his beard when asked what that means for day-to-day life at the school. He then says: "Hardly any of the children complete elementary school in four years, most of them need five or six. We can't stick to the normal curriculum, that's impossible. In the first months, we have to communicate with hand gestures and our focus is on the children learning the language as quickly as possible. Teachers pay for pens for their pupils out of their own pockets."

Nevertheless, Küppers hasn't lost his optimism. In the Ruhr Valley industrial region, where Duisburg is located, Turkish guest workers  worked in the coal mines alongside Germans and they became friends. "Why shouldn't the same thing happen again?" He sees it as part of his job to help schoolchildren find a new home. But, he says, "there is a lack of social work and teachers brave enough to start out here. And once they are here, they will need to have learned what to do when you are standing in front of 20 children who don't understand a word you are saying."

Like Küppers, educators and teachers across the country complain about the lack of support and understanding from political leaders. They have written impassioned letters and gone to the media, efforts that all too often end in disillusionment when their appeals go unheard.

"The focus needs to be on the second-generation immigrants," says demographer Reiner Klingholz of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. "Germany has to make huge improvements there." One of the biggest problems is that social intermingling hardly takes place at all in the cities. Often, the share of immigrants is particularly high in those schools already located in problematic neighborhoods. Around 70 percent of children with immigrant backgrounds in large cities go to elementary schools where a majority of the student body is made up of immigrants and the socially disadvantaged.

In generational comparisons, slight improvements have been made, but many immigrant children are still far away from reaching their potential. The share of second-generation immigrants from Turkish families with a university-prep high school diploma, for example, is 25 percent while for Germans it is 43 percent. "It continues to be the case that many immigrants pass down their limited education to their children," Klingholz says.

Many education experts point to Canada as an example to be emulated, a country that regularly comes out near the top in the comparative PISA study of global student performance carried out be the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In Canada, there is little correlation between social status and achievement in school. Second-generation immigrant children sometimes even do better in school than children from families who have been in Canada for generations. But the comparison is of only limited utility due to the fundamental differences between Canadian and German immigration policy. Canada carefully chooses its immigrants and they tend to be well-educated and fluent speakers of English. In 2016, the country only took in around 50,000 refugees.

A situation such as the one Germany was confronted with -- in which a huge number of immigrants came into the country as asylum-seekers, with many of them poorly educated or even illiterate -- is not one that Canada has ever experienced. That also helps explain why people in Canada have a different view of immigration.

A Need To Recognize and Address True Problems

Statistics from Germany's labor market would appear to support the concerns of the skeptics. More than half of those of working age who receive Hartz IV welfare benefits for the long term unemployed have immigrant backgrounds. One out of every 10 Hartz IV recipients is from Syria. Most aren't able to earn a living, instead focusing on learning German or receiving training. There was a hope in some quarters in 2015 that the incoming Syrians might help resolve Germany's shortage of highly skilled workers, but that has proven illusory. Still, a debate as to whether Islam belongs to Germany or not will certainly not help Syrians find jobs and accelerate down the path of integration.

It would be better to recognize that there are problems associated with immigration as it is practiced in Germany. And then to explore how many of those problems can be overcome by way of education, jobs and opportunities for advancement. A system such as the one used in Canada is largely impossible simply because of Germany's geographic location. No immigration cap will be able to change that. But the German government does need to muster sufficient courage to impose more regulation on immigration, reform the European asylum system and find effective ways to send rejected asylum applicants back to their home countries more expeditiously.

Jens Schneider from the Institute of Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück is one of the optimists in the immigration debate. That perhaps has to do with the focus of his research: He looks into the chances for social advancement among immigrant families living in those cities that are, as he puts it, "super diverse." Among that group of cities, there are positive examples to be found, and several of them are in southern Germany, such as Stuttgart or Augsburg, "where more than half the population has an immigrant background." In Augsburg, the share of immigrants was 46 percent in 2016. Soon, people without immigration backgrounds will be in the minority there.

'Work Is the Great Equalizer'

For many AfD supporters, that prospect is terrifying, but Augsburg is hardly known as a troubled city. "Because of the many jobs in the region, integration goes quietly and with little friction," says Schneider. The mantra of many political parties like the AfD or the CSU that the best immigrants are the ones that aren't there, Schneider says, has little to do with reality. In Augsburg, 64 percent of residents under the age of 18 have immigrant backgrounds. "The German majority that has to integrate a foreign minority into society: That model hasn't existed for some time now." Yet, he adds, a clash of civilizations is not taking place.


The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 16/2018 (April 14th, 2018) of DER SPIEGEL.

Integration means participating in societal structures. "From the moment I get a job in Germany, it is generally well enough paid that it is possible to build up a life on that basis." Work is the great equalizer, Schneider believes. "Socialization via work did wonders for the guest workers and it still works today."

The football fields of Augsburg are likewise extremely diverse. The leader of the local amateur league is currently the multicultural team called TSV Kriegshaber. The players are between 19 and 43 years old and come from 16 different countries: refugees and asylum applicants from Syria, Iraq and Gambia play alongside ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and children of former guest workers who have long since acquired German citizenship. Team coach Michael Heuberger, who was born in Augsburg, is part of the team's Swabian minority. His team also includes a Brazilian, an Italian, a Serb and a Kurd. Team captain Selcuk Kus is Turkish.

"Communication isn't always easy," says Heuberger, a 57-year-old employee of Deutsche Post who works as a coach part time. When he shouts to his team from the sideline, he sometimes merely gets blank stares back.

With 17 victories and just a single defeat, TSV Kriegshaber is an unexpected league leader. The different types of player on the team make them unpredictable for their opponents. "We don't have one pre-eminent star, we work as a team. Everybody runs and fights for everyone else," says Heuberger. To solidify team spirit even further, the team skipped practice on a recent Tuesday to go to a beer tent at an Augsburg folk festival.

Kriegshaber is a residential district in western Augsburg. "People help each other here," says Heuberger. During one season, he "helped write 50 job applications," he says. "We had nine unemployed players, but by the end of the season, all of them had found jobs."

If Germany is to become a home for all, then it will need several thousand Heubergers.

By Matthias Bartsch, Annette Bruhns, Anna Clauss, Lukas Eberle, Katrin Elger, Bartholomäus von Laffert, Cordula Meyer and Katja Thimm

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