Immigrants: France vs. Germany

Sylwia Bulak

Have you ever been abroad? Have you ever stand in the street surrounded by the inhabitants of a foreign country, having no idea what they are talking about?… If you were a tourist or an exchange student, you simply found this as quite exciting experience. Things are changing, when you decide to stay and settle – you are not a guest anymore. You are an immigrant and what previously was exciting now gives you an unpleasant feeling, that you are not at home.

Parallele Geselschaft – a term which some time ago appeared in German media, supposing that migrants which have not been integrated into German society form a parallel one. They decided to live in Germany but at the same time they are apart everything what “Germany” means, creating their own closed reality, speaking only their mother tongue, wanting to rebuild all that, what they have left in their homelands. So they are two (or more) societies within one country, which do not really correlate with each other, which do not see themselves as a whole, are they then neighbours or rather strangers living next door?

Such situation cannot be in any case described as multicultural society, where migrants without losing their national identity at the same time identify themselves with one leading culture, here German. “Multikulti kaput”, said Angela Merkel at the conference in Potsdam in October 2010, thereby opening a loud integration debate, that looked for solution how to merge all these sometimes extremely different groups in one.

Migrants constitutes around 15 millions in 82 millions people country (the number includes also repatriates and people born in Germany with at least one immigrant parent). Some seven million of them are foreigners without German citizenship. The most problematic group is the one of Turkish, mostly Islamic migrants. 2,5 millions and the highest birth rate. In his controversial book a German businessman Thilo Sarrazin  presents this group as a real threat, assuming that if nothing changes within a couple of generations Muslims will dominate in the country and Germany in a today form will disappear (the book was literally titled „Germany Does Away With Itself”). The vision of future Islamic Germany sounds rather unbelievable but such extreme views can really affect human imagination. And cause a fear.

In the moment of truth it has been decided:  the best solution will be naturalization. That means extended classes of German language, history and culture and granting German citizenship in an easier way. Citizenship for migrants which are believed to take over rule in the country seems to be crazy at first, but has its logic. Migrants perceived by the law as “Germans” will feel more like Germans. Citizenship should awake a feeling of second homeland; taking for granted the fact that everyone wants something good for one’s homeland it is believed that naturalized migrants will involve themselves more in social and political life. The whole system under construction from Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) issued in 2005 is now being expanded by number of new provisions.

How does the situation of immigrants look like in France?

The first scene which come into mind is this from 2010 when after the riots it was decided to expel a huge group of illegal immigrants of Gypsy nationality. Since then similar actions were multiplied ( in 2011 around 32 922 of illegal immigrants were sent back home).

It can be easily explained why France has adopted such radical measures. In a difficult economic period unemployed and uneducated migrants are just a burden. The case was simple: they entered French borders illegally so France had a full right to expel them. It might have looked dramatically but was fully justified.

What is noticeable is the change in the attitude towards legal migrants – the number of legal migration will be strictly limited and controlled.

„Our system of integration is working worse and worse because we have too many foreigners on our territory, and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school,” explained Nicolas Sarkozy in March 2012, short before presidential elections.

The winner of the elections and therefore the new head of the French state Francois Hollande seems to share the same view: „In a period of crisis, which we are experiencing, limiting economic immigration is necessary and essential”. In his opinion migration should be managed by the government, which should each year decide how many immigrants from non-EU countries can enter the country ( EU citizens have a right to seek for a job in France and it cannot be limited by any governmental management). Of course well qualified migrants are the most welcome.

In 2010 Eurostat estimated that 7.2 million foreign-born immigrants lived in France corresponding to 11.1% of the total population (without their descendants born in France). In Germany there is around 7 mln of foreigners (without counting their descendants born in Germany and repatriates) which means 8, 5 % of the population.

Both countries which were in the past open for foreign workers now face the same challenge, to keep inner integrity. The process of cultural diversification within one country cannot be turned back, only the negative consequences should be limited. But not only immigration matters of Germany and France are interesting – German citizens tend to emigrate to Switzerland struggling with Swiss-German dialect and… becoming a cause of immigration debate in Switzerland!…