19:41 GMT06 August 2020
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    Following last year's unprecedented wave of immigration, the German government has said it will invest some $161 million in a three-year program to encourage some asylum seekers to turn around and go home, a move refugee organizations are calling an unrealistic sop to voter sentiment.

    The effort is aimed at immigrants thought to have no chance of actually receiving asylum in the country, Deutsche Welle reports. Germany has limited its open-door refugee policy over the past year after receiving 900,000 asylum requests in 2015.

    The plan will offer immigrants education, training, jobs and other support, German Development Minister Gerd Müller said December 9, the Welt news agency reported. It will show the returnees that "Germany will remain their reliable partner after their return and make a new start easier," so the refugees won't be "returning as losers," he said.

    The ministry believes many people from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans would be willing to return to their countries, especially when faced with the prospect of remaining in bureaucratic limbo in Germany for years.
    Director of the Pro Asyl refugee rights organization Günter Burkhardt told Deutsche Welle the plan was a "placebo," and that imagining refugees from Afghanistan, where there is armed conflict in almost every part of the country, will be able to return and earn a living is ridiculous.

    "Now Müller is saying, 'it's about education, training, and jobs,' the threat situation is being completely ignored," he said. He also said giving returnees a few hundred euros is hardly enough to set up a new life.

    The program is due to be formally presented next week.

    Meanwhile, Germany's roughly 17 million immigrants are living in a country where the mood is now disrespectful and tense, according to German Integration Commissioner Aydan Ozoguz in Deutsche Welle, citing a new government report, "Participation, equal opportunity and developing rights in immigrant country Germany."

    Syrian refugees in particular are being framed as criminals, she said, despite evidence to the contrary. Figures from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office show that among refugee populations, Germany has "virtually no crime, especially among Syrian refugees. The feeling in the population is somewhat different and that shows a great discrepancy," Ozoguz said.

    And while fearing certain people in society shouldn't be condemned outright as racism, there are people "who are trying to create the image that criminality will rise if more refugees come here," Ozoguz said, according to German paper The Local, taking aim at the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

    Rather, the reality is that Syrians are so eager to integrate that German services can't keep up with them. Syrian immigrants top the list of immigrant groups participating in integration courses, ahead of the Poles, Russians and Turks who come to Germany in much larger numbers. Swelling class numbers have led to a shortage of German-language teachers to serve these immigrants, the commissioner pointed out.

    But the overall immigration story in Germany is one of success, Ozoguz said.

    "Children with immigrant backgrounds are much more likely to go to kindergarten, more teenagers are getting higher school qualifications in comparison with five years ago, employment among immigrants is up," she said, The Local reported. In 2015,17% of children from immigrant families completed university prep exams taken at the end of high school, up from nine percent in 2010. Forty-three percent of children from immigrant families had a final school qualification last year, up from 38%.

    However, people will immigration backgrounds are still twice as likely to live in poverty as those with no immigration backgrounds, the report found, and unemployment is almost three times as high among immigrants as it is among German citizens, she pointed out.


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