Go-ahead from the Bundesrat

Integration Act to support and challenge

Germany’s Integration Act is set to be passed into law. It is intended to make it easier for refugees to integrate into society. It provides for more integration courses, employment and training opportunities. At the same time it sets out the obligations those seeking asylum in Germany are under.

Participants taking an integration course

Refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay in Germany will be able to take language courses or undergo training sooner than before

Photo: Marlene Hrubesch

The guiding principle on which the new legislation is based is that of “support and challenge”. The Bundestag had already adopted the law, now the Bundesrat has followed suit. Refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay permanently will be eligible to take integration courses and to take advantage of job and training opportunities sooner than before. But they will also be required to work on their own integration. Those asylum seekers who refuse to take an integration course or who do not meet their duties to cooperate will have their benefits curtailed.

  • Refugees whose deportation has been suspended will have the right to remain while they are undergoing vocational training and after they are taken on. This gives legal certainty to refugees and their training enterprises.
  • More integration courses will be on offer so that refugees can start learning German quickly.
  • Integration is difficult if too many refugees move to urban centres. That is why the federal states can assign them a place of residence during the first three years they are here.
  • Refugees are to engage in meaningful employment while their claim for asylum is being processed, for example serving meals or tending to green spaces in their refugee shelter. On 1 August the Federal Government will be launching its new “Refugee Integration Measures” programme for 100,000 asylum seekers.
  • The Federal Employment Agency will also suspend its labour market priority check for a period of three years. This will make it easier for refugees to take up work.

Work is the best means of integration

Federal Labour Minister Andrea Nahles pointed out that the first thing many refugees ask for in German is work. 70 per cent of them are under the age of 30. Nahles said that successful integration meant that they went from receiving social benefits to putting a great deal back into society.

Two realities

Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière highlighted the fact that many refugees had already taken advantage of the opportunities available to them. He said: “They have done vocational training or learned a trade. They are studying for a degree or have set up a business that employs people. They are helping Germany to grow. They are an enrichment to our country.”

There is, however, also another reality, de Maizière said. People were able to live here without integrating into society. They hardly spoke any German or did not want to. “And they don’t have a proper job. A few young men are responsible for a remarkable number of criminal offences. These insights into the two realities that exist in our country are painful,” the Minister said.

The population as a whole was willing to integrate those who needed protection and who had good prospects of being allowed to stay here permanently, he added. “We want to foster that willingness. That is why we need integration measures. But we also need people to be able to trust in the fact that the rule of law will ensure that existing legislation is implemented.”

The Integration Act

The Federal Government adopted the Integration Act on 25 May 2016 at its special Cabinet meeting in Meseberg. The statutory instrument that forms part of the Integration Act sets out details regarding integration courses and the suspension of the labour market priority check.

More specifically:

Taking integration courses at an early stage

Being able to speak German and knowing how German society works are of key importance when it comes to integration. More refugees are to be able to take integration courses as early as possible. That is why class sizes are to be increased and course providers will be required to publish information about what courses they have on offer.

Legal certainty while undergoing vocational training

Trainees will be given exceptional leave to remain while they are undergoing vocational training. Those who are taken on by their training enterprise will be given a two-year right of residency.

Residence rule provides better means of control

What makes for successful integration? One key aspect is the question of where someone lives. That is why asylum seekers will in future be assigned a place of residence. Because if, for example, too many refugees move to urban centres integration becomes very difficult.

Job opportunities for refugees

While their asylum claim is being processed, refugees are to be able to take up meaningful employment. The Federal Government will be launching a “Refugee Integration Measures” programme for 100,000 asylum seekers.

Labour market priority check suspended

It will be easier for refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay in Germany to take up a job. That is why the Federal Employment Agency will suspend its labour market priority check for a period of three years, depending on the regional job situation.

Making it easier to do vocational training

Young refugees who have good prospects of being allowed to stay and other asylum seekers are to be able to start and complete a qualified vocational training course wherever possible. To make this easier, they too will now be eligible for a training grant.

Settlement permit dependent on integration

The German government is creating a powerful incentive to integrate with regard to unlimited settlement permits. Only those recognised refugees who have shown they are willing to integrate will be given a settlement permit.

Uniform rule on permission to reside

In future, asylum seekers will be granted permission to reside when they are issued with their arrival certificate. This will ensure that asylum seekers have legal certainty and are given early access to the labour market and integration courses.