Bad kissingen district: pioneer in integration

Mhd amer al hakawati has been living as a fugitive in germany for four years. In the meantime, the syrian is actively promoting integration himself as chairman of the newly founded kissingen meeting center for cultures. At the county’s first integration summit, he talks about his experiences. He told of the difficulties of getting a place in a language course, of the frustration when the lawyer, who had studied law, received only refusals when looking for work. And of the fact that it somehow worked out anyway and that he now works for the post office on an unlimited basis. "Despite some difficulties, I have achieved many of my goals", says the man from damascus. Without the many volunteers, this would not have been possible, he says.

For the district office, the integration summit was the starting signal on the way to an integration concept. "In the end, we would like to have a handbook for municipalities and associations on how integration can work, says stefan seufert, asylum coordinator and head of the education bureau. This handbook should not be just gray theory, but practical. "We want to work it out with the people who have to do with integration", he explains. About 70 volunteers from the help circles, cursed people, employees of educational institutions and social institutions, representatives of the police, employment agency and other authorities came to the event. They have divided themselves into six working groups that will meet over the next few months to work on the concept.

Good conditions in the country

District administrator thomas bold (CSU) recalls that after 2015, it was possible to successfully take in many refugees everywhere in the district, and with rough social support. But that was still comparatively easy. "Now we need a long breath to integrate the people", he says. For this to succeed, the migrants have had to learn the language and gain access to education and jobs. Politics and society had to provide support. "We need a practical approach to identify where we need to start", says bold.

Professor friedrich heckmann is head of the european forum for migration studies (efms) in bamberg and chairman of the expert forum at the federal office for migration and refugees (BAMF). The migration researcher accompanied the integration summit. He praises bad kissingen’s commitment because it is one of the first counties in bavaria to work on an integration concept. "Integration should be a normal municipal task and not voluntary", he demands. Integration takes place over generations. On the one hand, it is necessary that the migrant wants to integrate, on the other hand, the host society must also be open and support him in this process. "Integration is successful when people invest in it", says heckmann.

According to the scientist, rural regions such as bad kissingen offer good conditions. There are jobs and comparatively inexpensive apartments. Migrants have fewer opportunities to isolate themselves ethnically, but the pressure to integrate into mainstream society is greater. The poor coverage of public transportation, on the other hand, is problematic. For the region, in turn, it is positive – apart from the cultural enrichment – that the migrants contribute to the utilization and maintenance of the public infrastructure.

More courses for mothers

Gudrun brendel-fischer (CSU), the bavarian commissioner for integration, also praised the pioneering role played by the district. He has "taken a good direction". She pointed to the progress made in integration in germany, for example, the fact that many more refugees have recently found jobs that are subject to social insurance contributions. "We don’t want to create a new precariat, but offer opportunities for advancement", says brendel-fischer. She calls for more opportunities to place women in integration courses. This requires appropriate care for the children. "Women should not disappear into the private sphere", she says.

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