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Pre-departure integration
The road to Germany begins at home

The road to Germany begins at home
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Internet portals, advice centres, language courses – anyone toying with the idea of migrating to Germany can take advantage of pre-departure integration services even before leaving their home country.

By Janna Degener-Storr

Some hope to find a job here. Others want to move to Germany because their partner or other relatives already live here. And yet others are refugees who want only somewhere that they can feel safe. No matter what their reasons are, people who plan to migrate to Germany generally start clarifying the key questions relating to the migration process before setting off. What requirements do I need to meet in order to obtain a visa and a work permit? How will I find a place to live and a job? How can I learn some German in preparation for living there? Who can I turn to when I need help once I am in Germany?

A range of pre-departure information and advice services are on offer to help answer such questions. “During the pre-departure phase, people have already decided that they want to migrate but have not yet left their home countries. So it is a question of preparing them for life in Germany”, explains Iris Escherle from the Integration Projects Department at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Because a new law that was introduced in 2007 has required that people wishing to come to Germany to join a spouse who is already living here should prove a knowledge of German in order to obtain a visa, pre-departure projects initially focused on advising married migrants. The current shortage of skilled labour means that services now also set their sights on people who come to Germany for professional reasons.

Informative and reliable: online information portals

Online information portals are one important example of the type of pre-departure services on offer. Besides Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides answers to questions about residence laws on its website.
  • Skilled workers can use the Make it in Germany website to obtain information about things like finding a job and everyday life in Germany.
  • On its Recognition in Germany portal, the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training provides information about the recognition of foreign professional qualifications.
  • The website and Study in Germany portal of the German Academic Exchange Service is aimed primarily at students.
  • Through its Internet portal Mein Weg nach Deutschland, the Goethe-Institut offers people the chance to improve and consolidate their language skills and knowledge of Germany and its culture.
  • Deutsche Welle provides German courses on its website, as well as a series of videos aimed at refugees and helpers entitled Open Your Heart.
  • On its portal, Diakonie has summarized the various paths to legal migration and some key advice to ensure a successful arrival in Germany.
  • In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, the Youth Migration Services run a portal entitled jmd4you. Besides providing information, it also makes online advice available to young people, not only in German but also in Turkish and Russian.
In addition, many institutions also maintain an active presence in social media. Intercultural training courses prepare future migrants for life in Germany.
 

Personal advice and training

Above and beyond such Web-based services, people in some countries can also take advantage of personal advice sessions or can take part in training courses that will prepare them for life in Germany. In its pre-departure integration activities, the International Organization for Migration focuses particularly on supporting refugees who will not be able to return to their home countries in the foreseeable future, are currently in third countries where they cannot be integrated, and therefore need to be prepared for permanent resettlement in Germany. Within the framework of its Family Assistance Programme, the IOM offers integration courses and an integration handbook for Syrian and Iraqi refugees who are planning to apply or have already applied to join their family members already resident in Germany.

On behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and in cooperation with its respective national offices in Senegal, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Tunisia and Morocco, the GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) runs migration advice centres for people seeking training and job opportunities in their home countries or in Germany. Since 2008, the Goethe-Institut has been staging information events and seminars in Southeast Asia, Turkey and other Southeast European countries that were initially funded by the European Integration Fund (EIF) and, since 2014, by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). One focus of the current project, which runs until June 2020, is continuing education for teachers and advisers. In addition, the Goethe-Institut is conducting a study of the measures taken around the world to integrate migrant professionals.

Diakonie (led by Diakonie Baden), the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Evangelische Jugendsozialarbeit (Federal Association of Evangelical Youth Social Work) and the Alevitische Gemeinde Deutschland e.V. (Alevi Community Germany) have received EU funding for their projects. Since 2009, Diakonie has been running a project entitled To arrive prepared and successfully in Germany, which has supported 31,200 people through extensive advisory processes in Turkey, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and more recently also in Russia. In close cooperation with the branches of the Goethe-Institut, language schools and other local actors, as well as with the migration advice centres of the welfare associations in Germany, people take part in group and individual advice sessions with a view to ensuring that their professional and social integration in Germany is as successful as possible. “It is important to get things right at the beginning, to ensure that people have realistic ideas and plans, and to accompany and support them throughout the process”, stresses Jürgen Blechinger, the Diakonie’s project leader in Baden. In a similar project in Turkey, the Alevi Community has run around 11,000 advice sessions since the project began in December 2009. Time and again, it becomes clear that many people have a false idea of what life in Germany is like because their knowledge comes only from conversations with relatives, and many rumours also do the rounds. Blechinger explains that it is essential therefore to convey to people during the advice sessions how important learning German is for integration in Germany.

What is the entry procedure, and what happens next?

The objective of the free pre-departure integration measures is thus to support those wishing to migrate as they tackle the bureaucratic hurdles, and to give them a realistic picture of life in Germany. “If we reach out to potential migrants before they leave their home countries and prepare them properly, we will ensure that they are able to make themselves understood in Germany from the outset and can take advantage of all the support services that are on offer. In other words, we bring those who have made a conscious decision to move to Germany into the integration chain from the start. In the standard services such as integration courses that the migrants attend after arriving in Germany, they can then build upon this knowledge”, says Iris Escherle. Initial study results indicate that this meets with a positive response from the target group: the Goethe-Institut’s Pre-Integration in the South-East Asian Region project alone, which came to an end in 2017, reached around 7,500 people with its in-person offerings, and around 700,000 users with its virtual services. In a quantitative survey, 97 percent of them said that they felt well or very well prepared before departing for Germany. Training courses for example are popular with migrants because they bring participants into personal contact with the German culture, and give them a chance to meet one another. At the same time, however, the target group appreciates the virtual services that can be used more flexibly.

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