“Migration is not an event, it’s a process”
The Conference on “Pre-Integration and Transition Management” was hosted by the Goethe-Institut and took place in Berlin on 6-7 March 2012. It was attended by policy-makers, academics and civil society representatives.
ContentOpening Speech by Minister of State Professor Maria Böhmer
Presentation of the Outcomes of the Project “Evaluation of the
Transition from Pre-Integration Language Learning to the Integration Course”
Germany must continue to develop a “welcome culture”
Pre-Integration and Transition Management in Other Countries
Workshops: Pre-Integration from a Sociological, Methodological/Didactic
and Legal Perspective
Possibilities and Perspectives
Professor Maria Böhmer, Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, opened the conference at the Akademie der Künste with a very personal speech in which she talked about her impressions of her various visits to pre-integration language courses at the Goethe-Institut in the past. She expressed her appreciation and thanks to the Goethe-Institut for the high quality of its work and the dedication of its staff.
From the outset, the Minister of State’s speech mapped out some of the key parameters for the conference: the transition period between taking the language examination in the home country – the prerequisite for spouses to qualify for a visa – and the start of the integration course in Germany is too long at present and is not being fully utilised in terms of providing further language training, information and advice. Furthermore, “transition management” should not only be aimed at spouses joining their husband or wife in Germany, but should also focus on other target groups such as the skilled workers being sought in Germany.
Full text of speech by Minister of State Professor Maria Böhmer (PDF, approx. 0.2 MB)
Welcome speech by Dr Matthias Makowski (PDF, approx. 0.1 MB)
Presentation of the Outcomes of the Project “Evaluation of the Transition from Pre-Integration Language Learning to the Integration Course”
After the opening speech, the Goethe-Institut presented the main findings of the project “Evaluation of the Transition from Pre-Integration Language Learning to the Integration Course”. On average, six months elapse after prospective migrants take the German language examination in their home country until they move to Germany, and a further five months elapse from the time they enter Germany until they start the integration course. In other words, the transition period lasts an average of 11 months.
Overall, the pre-integration courses are having a positive effect: the majority of new arrivals surveyed as part of the project consider the language course in their home country to have been very helpful (58%) or helpful (30%) in preparing for life in Germany. However, the project also revealed that the majority of new arrivals with an A1 certificate from their home country go back to the beginning and start the integration course in Germany with module 1, in some cases at their own request. The migrants themselves are highly motivated. They wish to practise and develop their language skills and knowledge of Germany during the transition period, and are interested in using digital media for this purpose. However, very little material is available to support learning, practice and information acquisition by this target group in line with its needs; such material would be beneficial for independent learning during the transition period.
The project also identified a substantial need for mother-tongue advisory services, commencing in the home country, as a form of ongoing support for prospective migrants during the transition period and linking in with the advisory services available in Germany. The Goethe-Institut is currently in the process of responding to this need by establishing an Internet platform which enables prospective migrants to practise and develop their language skills and knowledge of Germany, access the information they need to prepare for their future life in Germany, and network with other migrants.
Full text of project presentation (PDF, approx. 0.6 MB)
The discussion then turned to “Pre-integration and transition management in the context of German and European integration policy”, with a panel comprising Professor Rita Süssmuth, former Chair of the Independent Council of Experts for Immigration and Integration, Dr Michael Griesbeck, Vice President of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Dr Dieter Wiefelspütz, SPD expert on domestic policy issues, Reinhard Grindel (CDU), spokesperson of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group on the German Bundestag’s Committee on Internal Affairs, and Dr Bruno Gross, representing the Executive Committee of the Goethe-Institut.
Despite divergent positions on the legislation itself, the panellists agreed that Germany must continue to work on its “welcome culture”. Dr Gross emphasised that in the debate, there is too much distinction between integration and pre-integration. There should be closer linkage between the process in the home countries and integration in Germany.
How do other countries deal with this issue? Answers to this question were provided on the second day of the conference by Dr Tineke Strik from Radboud University Nijmegen. Dr Strik is project leader and coordinator for INTEC – Integration and Naturalisation Tests: The New Way to European Citizenship, which undertakes comparative research on pre-integration, integration and naturalisation tests and their effects in nine EU Member States. The study found that making residence entitlements contingent on passing examinations discriminates against certain groups – mainly the elderly and people with little education.
Full text of speech by Dr Tineke Strik (PDF, approx. 0.2 MB)
The ensuing panel discussion on “Pre-integration programmes – an international comparison” focused on Germany, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. Various experts from these countries reported on current and planned pre-integration activities from a theoretical and practical perspective.
France was represented by Jean Godfroid, Directeur général at the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration, Paris. Canada was represented by Pindie Stephen from the Headquarters of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Dr Tineke Strik represented the Netherlands, while Austria was represented by Tamara Völker from the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Vienna. Yüksel Tellici from the Migration Advisory Office in Zug represented Switzerland. The German representative was Klaus-Thomas Frick from the Head Office of the Goethe-Institut in Munich.
The presentation of the latest research findings continued to be the main focus of attention on the second day of the conference, with three parallel workshops. These considered the legal, methodological/didactic and sociological aspects of pre-integration.
The legal perspective
Jonathan Leuschner and Professor Anne Walter spoke about the fact that the conditions imposed on spouses’ immigration into Germany are currently being reviewed by the courts, on the grounds that compelling spouses to provide evidence of language skills while they are still living in their country of origin prolongs the separation of the families concerned and could be construed as conflicting with Article 6 of the German constitution, the Basic Law, which affords special protection to marriage and the family. One possible solution discussed at the conference is the introduction of exemptions/hardship rules.
|Summary of the workshop “Pre-integration: the legal perspective” by Jürgen Lenzko, Head of Language Department, Goethe-Institut Jakarta (in German)|
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The methodological/didactic perspective
Nimet Tan and Dilek Baskan presented the findings of their research on “Language teaching in the pre-integration framework”. Their key findings were that didactics and methodology, as well as the materials used, must be tailored to spouses as a target group, as many of them have little experience of education. It was also pointed out that the pre-integration courses support the formation of social networks.
|Summary of the workshop “Language teaching in the pre-integration framework” by Gisela Gibtner, Head of Language Department at the Goethe-Institut Rabat/Casablanca (in German)|
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The sociological perspective
Dr Can Aybek and Professor Gaby Straßburger have undertaken a sociological study of strategies and risks relating to marriage migration. They found that it is mainly women who migrate to join their husbands (“patrilocality”). This is because for men, migration to join their wife is associated with a loss of status. Long periods of separation due to attendance at language courses and visa procedures pose a risk to relationships.
|Summary of the workshop “Pre-integration: the sociological perspective” by Gerald Kusche, Examination Officer, Goethe-Institut Bangkok (in German)|
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Full text of presentation by Dr Can Aybek and Professor Gaby Straßburger (PDF, approx. 0.2 MB)
The final session, which was chaired by Dr Roland Meinert, Head of Division, Language Courses and Examinations, Goethe-Institut, focused on “Pre-Integration: Possibilities and Perspectives”. Dr Can Aybek from the Federal Institute for Population Research emphasised once again that migration and integration are not an event but a process, which takes place in various phases and poses various challenges to migrants and the host society. Dr Gunilla Fincke, Director of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, refrained from commenting directly on legal aspects of the Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) but emphasised that managed immigration inevitably causes some degree of hardship for some individuals; this is evident in other European countries as well. Dr Matthias Makowski, Head of the Language Department at the Goethe-Institut, added that with its pre-integration courses and services for the transition period until immigration takes place, the Goethe-Institut is helping to mitigate the hardships for the persons concerned and is creating genuine prospects for integration by assisting migrants to develop language, intercultural and orientation skills. Anja Treichel from the Association of Binational Families and Partnerships described how low earners and persons with little experience of learning are particularly affected by the legal requirement to demonstrate language skills prior to immigration.
All the panellists agreed that pre-integration services are positive and beneficial and that simply appealing to people to attend the courses on a voluntary basis would not motivate them to an adequate extent. It was also pointed out that the pre-integration courses and services for the transition period are not only suitable for spouses joining their partners in Germany; they are also useful for labour migrants. Giving people access to pre-integration measures is part of the “welcome culture” which is the subject of intensive debate but is rarely defined in precise terms.
Overall, the conference showed that only time will tell how the legal position will evolve in the coming years. The main conclusion for the present is this: a network of advisory services and language course providers has been working since 2007 to ensure that the obstacle posed by the legislation is transformed into an opportunity for as many people as possible. Germany, and the Goethe-Institut in particular, have achieved major successes here, as the participants repeatedly emphasised during the two days of the conference. The importance of a professional exchange between policy-makers, practitioners and the research community on this issue was underlined by Dr Dieter Wiefelspütz, SPD expert on domestic policy issues: he recommended that the Goethe-Institut hold follow-up events to this Berlin conference at regular intervals in order to continue the dialogue.
Download the programme (PDF, approx. 0,5 MB)
The Goethe-Institute provides information about Germany, supports international cultural exchange, and promotes the German language abroad. Its work thus has a direct and specific connection with the topic of migration and integration, which is highly relevant to Germany.
Among our target groups are people who want to take up short- or long-term residence in Germany, especially spouses wishing to join their husbands or wives who are already living there. As part of our pre-integration offer, we provide information, advice, German language courses and intercultural training in their home country.
The Goethe-Institut has been actively engaged in the field of pre-integration since 2007, the aim being to prepare spouses for a life in Germany. Transition management is closely linked to pre-integration and refers to the period between completion of pre-integration in the home country and the start of the integration course in Germany.
The Goethe-Institut explored these two topics with German and international experts and interested members of the public at a conference on 6-7 March 2012. It focused especially on the role of pre-integration and transition management in Germany. The event marked the completion of the Goethe-Institut project “Evaluation of the Transition from Pre-Integration Language Learning to the Integration Course”, whose outcomes were presented at the Conference.