By Andro Anic. Photos by Gabriel d’Alincourt

“Integration takes time. It is a social project that should offer equal opportunities and participation to all,” says Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan of Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research at Humboldt University. She has led two projects, HEYMAT (Hybrid European Muslim Identities) and JUNITED (New Islam-related-topics in Germany), both connected to integration of displaced people. At FES Integration Congress, she alongside Secretary General of Social Democratic Party Katarina Barley speak about the need to understand integration as a means of helping displaced people. According to the experts, it is important to strengthen welcoming culture in Germany alongside other states.

According to Foroutan, the increasing amount of people emphasize on the importance to distinguish the ‘home country migrants’ from displaced people. “It’s very difficult to hear that someone would treat a person from a European country differently than a displaced person from the Middle East. After all, there is no difference,” she says, “Imagine if it was your child, would you treat this person differently then?” Foroutan talks about the problem of spreading blame toward different groups of society. “With this way of thinking, there’s no real chance for social change,” she adds.

“Respect toward displaced people has to be the same as to any other person. Everyone has a right to be treated well despite gender, race, or language,” says Barley of SPD, “People should be given the same opportunity without being categorized.” The issue is the raise of populism from the right-wing parties. They train their members to spread the general rules for treating displaced people. “There are parties that want people to follow their orders and say as they are told to,” she explains.

Barley emphasizes on the importance of fighting for diversity and integration. “Integration is not an obligation. It’s something we should do to be better, colorful, and diverse,” she continues. Barley herself has a dual citizenship with Germany and the UK, and she has experienced prejudice because of it. To people with similar backgrounds, she encourages being active in fighting for integration values.

“Refugees are not objects, but a subject,” states Foroutan, “Getting rid of labels and accepting everyone as their own child should be the reality.” Through her research, Foroutan found the main methods to involve people in the community. Out of all the people her group interviewed, more than 90% said that having a German citizenship is the most important thing for integration.


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