The demand for integration courses in Germany is clearly currently outstripping supply: about 9,000 "voluntary participants" in the federal program are on waiting lists right now.
This was the figure given by the Interior Ministry in answer to an inquiry by the Left Party. Five-thousand-three hundred applicants were informed in their approval letters that they would be able to begin their courses in three months. "This control measure was made to consolidate spending," the ministry wrote.
A further 3,700 migrants "are on a waiting list." According to the Interior Ministry, those interested will receive their "approval at a later date." A total of 140,000 people are currently taking part in about 16,000 integration courses nationwide.
"The financial resources available to these courses are clearly not enough to meet the demand," criticized Steffen Bockhahn, budget specialist for the Left Party. "One has to wonder whether the government is really taking the issue of integration seriously."
Courses Offered Since 2005
Since 2005, Germany's immigration law has required that some newly arrived immigrants take part in courses on German language and society. The law states that any new immigrant coming into Germany from a non-European Union country, must, at the discretion of immigration authorities, participate in a government-funded integration course. The course includes 600 hours worth of German language instruction and a 30-hour orientation that covers the basics of German culture, history and law. Many other immigrants, though, apply to take advantage of the free language and cultural instruction.
In recent weeks, Germany has found itself in a raging debate over integration in the country. Just one week ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel generated international headlines with a speech in which she said it was an illusion to think the Germans and foreign workers could "live happily side by side."
"Of course the tendency had been to say, 'let's adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy living with each other'. But this concept has failed, and failed utterly."
It is a debate that rears its head every few years in Germany because the country for decades ignored its large immigrant population and only took steps in recent years to create a viable integration policy. The latest salvoes in the perpetual debate came after the publication of a book by Thilo Sarrazin, a former board member of the German central bank, who portrayed masses of immigrants living in the country as being unwilling to integrate or participate in German society.