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Arrival in Germany begins even before entry

  Counseling at Goethe-Zentrum Surabaya
© Wisma Jerman Surabaya

The Goethe-Institut helps prospective migrants with professional qualifications and those intending to join spouses to get ready for a new start in Germany while they are still in their countries of origin. Some of these people have fallen in love with a German man or woman and would like to start a new life here. Others hope for career opportunities in the heart of Europe. Anyone planning migration to Germany is not on their own. The “Pre-Integration in the Regions of South-East Asia and South-East Europe” project provides a platform via which the Goethe-Institut can inform migrants in advance of the challenges they will face if they relocate from Belgrade to Berlin or from Bangkok to Buxtehude.

By Janna Degener-Storr

There are computer technicians who work in a German firm in Belgrade and hope for a job offer at head office. Doctors from Izmir who have already been promised a position in a German hospital. Indonesian engineers, Bosnian nurses, Vietnamese geriatric nurses who want to apply for qualified roles over here. And plenty of men and women from the most diverse regions of the world who wish to share their lives with their German husbands or wives in this country.

Each year, thousands of people all over the world decide to shift the focus of their lives to Germany. They attend German courses, pass exams, apply for visas, book flights – and in some cases they have absolutely no idea what kind of life awaits them in this distant land. How do new arrivals find accommodation in cities like Munich or Hamburg? Is it true that people in Germany act in an aloof manner towards foreigners? How does it feel to live thousands of kilometres away from your close relatives on a permanent basis? And who can migrants turn to when they need help?

Information services for migrants

The Goethe-Institut offers migrants answers to questions like these, as well as supporting them as they prepare for migration – while they are still in their countries of origin and long before they attend their first integration course. Migrants who have already arrived in Germany use video as a medium for relating their experiences via the internet. The Goethe-Institut is also developing other virtual services such as Facebook pages, blogs, apps and webinars within the framework of its pre-integration projects, to communicate a realistic idea of life in Germany using a low-threshold approach for the benefit of potential migrants. Furthermore the projects offer these people an opportunity to take advantage of free advice, information events and seminars about everyday life and the workplace in Germany – regardless of whether they are taking a language course at the Goethe-Institut or have registered for an exam.

A new law came into force in 2007 requiring joining spouses from non-EU countries to provide evidence that their language skills are at A1 level before they can enter Germany, and since then the Goethe-Institut has identified them as a new target group for in their countries of origin, consisting of people who generally have little learning experience and prior knowledge. In addition to language courses and exams, there have been projects since 2008 in South-East Asia – but also in Turkey and other countries in South-East Europe – to support pre-integration, and also to harmonise the transition from pre-integration to the integration course. At the beginning these projects were funded by the European Integration Fund (EIF) and since 2014 the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Focus on South-East Asia and South-East Europe

The current project “Pre-Integration in the Regions of South-East Asia and South-East Europe” started on 1st July 2018 and is scheduled to run for two years. Work in Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam had started already in the predecessor project and is now being continued. The focus is now back on Sri Lanka as well as the South-East Europe region, specifically the locations of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. Whereas the focus of previous projects tended to be on helping joining spouses to cope with their fears before migration, as well as preparing them for exams by providing additional learning support, the idea this time is to deliver a comprehensive migration preparation package, which is also more intensively oriented towards professional migrants. “This target group is becoming increasingly important, and it has the same status in the current project as the joining spouses group”, explains Andrea Hammann, Project Coordinator for Pre-integration at the Goethe-Institut head office. This time the content themes started in the last project – socio-cultural preparations, intercultural training and migration preparation in the native countries – are to be handled in greater depth. To make sure all employees were at the required standard to deliver this content, everyone involved in the project at all sites underwent comprehensive training in cooperation with the German Youth Migration Service at the Goethe-Institut head office at the end of 2018.

Aurora Killo, who coordinates the project at the Goethe-Zentrum in Tirana, can see a great need for pre-integration services in her country: “In Albania there is currently a huge requirement for information about life in Germany because many Albanians would like to have a career there in the future, or are interested in joining the rest of their family.” Nemanja Vlajkovic of the Goethe-Institut in Belgrade emphasises the fact that pre-integration brings with it new challenges for him and his colleagues: “Until now we have had no experience of providing advice or intercultural training.” Cooperation between the different locations is to be intensified in future too, as Felix Warneke from the Goethe-Institut Bangkok stresses: “We can benefit from the wealth of experience of our colleagues in Vietnam, for instance by translating a brochure created there and rebranding it for our target audiences.”

Alongside the practical work in the migrants’ home countries, the current pre-integration project also has a scientific dimension: the Goethe-Institut will be conducting a worldwide study on the pre-integration of professional migrants in cooperation with an agency or university. “We would also like to investigate the extent to which the services offered for joining spouses are transferrable to the context of professional migration,” explains Andrea Hammann. “The fact is, the Goethe-Institut already has almost ten years of experience in preparation of joining spouses, while the target group of professional migrants is still relatively new for us. But even now it’s clear that there some significant overlaps in the preparation for migration to Germany, especially where day-to-day life is concerned.”
Funded by:

Logo Asyl-, Migrations- und Integrationsfonds