Integration Urge

Don't Repeat the Past!

VW gastarbeiter from Italy in 1970, imago
Italian migrant workers at Volkswagen on their way for Christmas vacation in Italy, 1970.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has been struggling to come to terms with its new role as an immigration country.

  • Facts


    • In the 1960s, many Italian so called “migrant workers” came to Germany in the hopes of profiting from the economic upswing in the country.
    • Just like with the wave of Turkish workers in the 1980s, most of them initially had plans to go back, but a large number stayed on, eventually settling in Germany.
    • After the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states, many ethnic Germans migrated to Germany as so-called “repatriates.”
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No one questions humanitarian aid and a fundamental right to asylum. Humanity mandates those principles. If people flee persecution, war and torture, we have to make sure they can count on Europe.

Regardless of the number of refugees that will arrive here in the future, we mustn’t repeat the mistakes that were made when trying to integrate the so called “migrant workers” [people who came to Germany looking for work, usually with the intention to go back after making some money, but ended up staying on; particularly Italians in the 1960s and Turkish in the 1980s, Eds.] and ethnic German repatriates from the Communist East.

The way Germany is dealing with the current wave of refugees will soon be clear. The next few weeks and months will show whether we make the best of the immigration by welcoming it as the answer to the problems of an aging society – or whether the year 2015 will one day mark the start of a failed refugee policy that later led to social problems in the year 2035.

The current refugee crisis cannot turn into an immigration crisis. The German government needs to act more resolutely than it has been doing recently to ensure that doesn’t happen.  

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