Turks Snub German Integration Summit

An integration summit called by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to bring ethnic minorities into mainstream society was overshadowed by a boycott of Turks, the country's largest minority.

Turks Snub German Integration Summit

 In protest at the recently approved integration law that they say discriminates against Muslims, reported Deutsche Welle on Friday, July 13. "The Turkish community is not taken seriously," said Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD).

Kolat said the Turks boycotted the one-day summit on Thursday, July 12, in protest at amendments to the immigration act approved by parliament earlier this week.

The new amendments put new hurdles for newly wed Turkish citizens moving to Germany for their spouses.

The bill stipulates that husbands or wives of immigrants living in Germany must be aged 18 or over for obtaining permanent residency in Germany.

He or she must also be able to speak German.

Citizens of EU member-states and other countries such as Australia, Israel, Japan and the United States have been exempted from the new law regulations.

The Turkish community believes the amendment is discriminatory because it does not apply across the board.

In response, four leading Turkish organizations decided to boycott the summit: Turkish Community, the Ditib network of mosques, the Turkish Parents' Association and the Council of Germans of Turkish Extraction.

"That is discrimination," said Kolat. "We are treated like children who understand nothing of the law."

But Merkel lashed out at the Turkish groups that snubbed the meeting.

"One does not issue the federal government with ultimatums over legislation that has been approved by parliament," she said.

"But we continue to hold out our hand, all they have to do is accept the next invitation when it comes up."

Thursday's summit was attended by 90 leaders of the different ethnic minorities in Germany.

A "national integration plan" was adopted by the summit containing 400 promises to improve living conditions of immigrants, ranging from aid for ethnic sports clubs to more German-language classes.

Merkel said that a new integration summit would be held in autumn 2008 to assess progress.

Second-class

Bekir Alboga, the leader of Ditib network of mosques, said Muslims are not against integration efforts but they reject double standards.

"We have nothing against pursuing a dialogue but we are very much against the immigration law," he said.

"It has made second-class citizens of many foreigners. Somebody called Hans can bring his wife from Turkey or India into the country without a problem, but if your name is Ali and you have Turkish roots, then this becomes a lot harder."

The four Turkish groups have threatened to challenge the immigration act in the Constitutional Court.

There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, two thirds of whom are of Turkish origin.

A day before Thursday's summit, the German government approved a package of measures to accelerate immigrants' integration into society and tackle their problems.

The measures included making would-be immigrants sit an additional 300 hours of citizen classes.

They also included setting up a special helpline for women who suffer domestic abuse or are forced into marriage.

The cabinet further set a target of creating an additional 10,000 jobs for people of foreign origin by 2010.

In a report published on Tuesday, July 10, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that immigrants faced discrimination in the German job market.

Germany is home to 7.3 million immigrants, making up roughly 18 percent of the country's 82 million population, according to official statistics.

But the federal government estimates that ethnic minorities total 15 million people, including those who have obtained German citizenship by naturalization or because they were children of mixed marriages.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2007, 17:15
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