By Kristina Soklic, The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
Social integration is a process of immigrants being accepted as full members of the host society. The processes of integration differs from one country to another or from one ethnical group to another. However, the study of the social integration of Turks in Germany and the Netherlands suggests that these processes are rather complex. Emigration of Turks was mostly drawn by the economic needs of the western European countries and on the other hand by the starvation and overpopulation in Turkey. Most members of the Turkish communities in Germany and the Netherlands emigrated from the same region of Turkey (mostly central Anatolia), they speak similar dialects and they mainly consist of rural people who prior to the emigration had never lived in a town.
The roots of both communities are similar, with similar customs, belief system, and family-based structure, but the level of integration differs. Turks in the Netherlands are more integrated in the society than their counterparts in Germany. In the first years of moving into the host society there existed similar ethnical organizations, that promoted the Turkish way of life, in Germany and the Netherlands. Over time Islamic organizations in the Netherlands started to encourage the integration into Dutch society. In Germany the Islamic organizations wanted to create ethnic enclaves where German norms and values would not accepted however, they were struggling to do so.
Also the role of the state cannot be overlooked. The Netherlands agreed to the policy of voting rights for foreigners, anti-discrimination laws, security for residence after five years, and facilitated naturalization. On the other hand, such institutionalized diversity has not been adopted in Germany. The German policies were too occupied with dealing with the conflict of immigration raised by left- and right-wing parties. Another problem lies within Germany’s ethno-cultural viewpoint of citizenship, which perceives all immigrants, after years living in Germany, still as foreigners (Ausländer) – foreigners that will eventually return back home. A more liberal policy was adopted in 1999. However, the ethnocentric view of identity has remained, since only about 20 percent of the Turks living in Germany have acquired German citizenship. In the past German politicians were disillusioned about the situation of the immigrants in the country. No “bridge institutions” between both societies have been provided, which could have led to the mutual co-operation and co-existence.
What does the social integration offer to the immigrants in the host society? It should be about tackling cultural shocks, providing easy naturalization without ethnocentric predispositions. Social integration is meant to bear the cultural differences in order to co-exist, work and freely express one’s belief, values, and traditions. The essence of social integration is the respect for cultural diversity in one hand and respect for host society’s norms and legal system in another. In the end it is about people searching for happiness, people who are trying to achieve their personal goals, and about people looking for a better life.
References and further reading:
– Karcher, Albert. 2010. Integrating Turks in Germany: The Separation of Turks from German Society, Discrimination against Turks in the German Labor Market and Policy Recommendations to Integrate Turks into German Society.
– Tol, Gonul. 2011. A Comparative Study Of The Integration Of The Turks In Germany And The Netherlands. UC Davis Migration Dialogue Conference.