Strong together: networking in pre-integration

Goethe-Institutes in South-East Asia, South-East Europe, Brazil, North Africa and the Middle East have pooled the expertise of their diverse cooperation partners in order to prepare potential migrants for life in Germany as effectively as possible.

By Janna Degener-Storr

A change of residence is always associated with organisational effort, and when someone moves to a different country it usually entails barriers of language, culture and bureaucracy as well. People coming from South-East Asia, South-East Europe, Brazil, North Africa and the Middle East with the aim of making Germany their home on a permanent basis can receive help and support during these steps from their local Goethe-Institut. Colleagues specialising in pre-integration work need to be familiar with the regions of origin and destination, have good knowledge of challenges typically faced in migration processes, and be equipped with the necessary advisory skills to earn the migrants’ trust.

But the questions that can arise in the context of pre-integration work are diverse, complex and in some cases also very individual. To enable Goethe-Institut centres to provide optimum support for every single migrant along their journey, they rely on networking – which is going to be professionalised further during the new project “Pre-Integration in the Regions of South-East Asia, South-East Europe, Brazil, North Africa and the Middle East”.

Everyone plays their part

For example, the Goethe-Institutes at locations across South-East Europe are involved in a cooperative venture with the Diakonie, which has been providing individual migration advice pre-arrival since 2009 in a project known as “Preparation for Arriving in Your New Homeland”. “The advisors at the Diakonie have substantial experience in the relevant aspects of the law. If migrants approach us with specific legal questions that we can’t answer, we really do benefit from our cooperation with them,” explains Andrea Hammann, Project Coordinator for Pre-Integration at the Goethe-Institut head office. Jürgen Blechinger, legal practitioner and head of the migration service unit at the Diakonie in Baden, says: “To be successful in Germany it’s important to make preparations for the integration process at an early stage and clear up all the individual questions. In this capacity our advisors in Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia work closely with the migration information centre at their intended destination in Germany and with the Goethe-Institutes and private language schools in their countries of origin. A good mastery of the German language is important, particularly in professional terms if they want to gain a foothold in a qualified area.”

In addition to this, some places have local cooperation arrangements as well. For instance the Goethe-Institut Bosnia and Herzegovina receives support from employees at the ProRecognition project in all questions relating to international recognition of professional qualifications gained abroad. Project team member Lejla Djelilovic explains: “In Sarajevo we already work closely with our recognition team. We’d also like to draw on this network in the future to allow us to become more active in the province.” And the colleagues in neighbouring Serbia take advantage of many free services in cooperation with Deutsches Haus Montenegro, a local language school that serves as a language and examination partner.

The Goethe-Institut Istanbul is collaborating intensively with the project “Meine neue Heimat” (My New Home; MNH) championed by the Alevi Federation in Cologne, which like the pre-integration projects run by the Goethe-Institut and the Diakonie is financed by the European Union Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). MNH coordinator Doğan Şengül explains: “When a language course participant or anyone else with an interest in migrating to Germany approaches the Goethe-Institut or even language schools in other parts of Turkey with their questions or problems, they can receive advice from the colleagues we have trained. In addition, our people also put on one or two-day seminars at events that are organised by the Goethe-Institut. This cooperation has already been under way for more than ten years, which is unusual for an EU project, and it works really well.” Project team member Gülseren Güleryüz concurs: “We’ve already benefited a great deal from the close-knit network within the AMIF team for some years, but during the pandemic we’ve learned to appreciate the importance of collaboration all over again. For example we cooperate with colleagues from the “My new home” project to offer online seminars with which we are now able to reach people throughout Turkey who wouldn’t have been able to travel to classroom-based courses in Istanbul because it was too far to travel.”

Zwei junge Menschen lassen sich am Goethe-Institut Hanoi beraten. © © Goethe-Institut Hanoi Beratung am Goethe-Institut Hanoi © Goethe-Institut Hanoi
A benefit for everyone involved

At locations in South-East Asia the networking is focused on the German embassies. Goethe-Institut centres in Indonesia and Thailand regularly invite representatives from the visa departments to their events as speakers, with a similar cooperation planned in Myanmar. “At our information events about living and working in Germany, firstly alumni have a chance to speak – people who have emigrated for marriage or to take up employment and relate their experiences – but also representatives from the embassy, who present lectures to explain what steps need to be taken to apply for the visa and what documents are required for this,” explains Sombatua Sihotang from Goethe-Institut Indonesia. Interest from potential migrants in cooperative events like this is huge, he says. That’s also confirmed by Hafid Zulfikar, a doctor who took part in the seminar in 2019. At the time he wanted to relocate to join his wife, who was studying in Germany: “I received lots of helpful information about living in Germany from the German cultural institute. Then at the event with the German embassy I was also able to ask which visa would be suitable for me and what else I needed to prepare for the journey. After that I was able to emigrate to Germany to join my family.”

Advising the advisors

Ultimately it is a particularly intensive cooperative venture across multiple locations that the Goethe-Institut maintains with the Youth Migration Services (JMD), providing online advice in German, Turkish and Russian as well as information on their portal jmd4you. The experienced JMD advisors are based at various places throughout Germany and regularly share their expertise with Goethe-Institut employees at advisor training sessions, most recently during the final session of the project in South-East Asia and South-East Europe, which came to a close in July.  This session was held online due to the corona pandemic. For team members new to pre-integration work, the Youth Migration Services advisors also offer the chance for them to sit in on sessions at one of the Youth Migration Services advice centres. Furthermore they are available as points of contact on an everyday basis for colleagues overseas.

As of mid-November 2020 the online advice tool “jmd4you” should be used, which allows the Goethe-Institut advisors to address their questions directly to the Youth Migration Services via their intranet, which will allow them to obtain competent answers quickly – and in compliance with data privacy. Özcan Ülger, project manager of the JMD-online advice service, hopes in future to close ranks even more tightly with the Goethe-Institutes and other key figures in pre-integration work: “With the different services we offer, we’re all doing our bit to help the migrants along their way. But so far we are unable to meet the demand for advice. The more effectively we cooperate, the more we can manage to do.”

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