Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Berlin

image of Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Berlin

Berlin has long been a diverse, multicultural city and today about 1 million – or 30% – of its inhabitants have a migration background, meaning that they – or at least one of their parents – were born without German nationality. Berlin’s authorities perceive diversity as generally accepted in Berlin’s society. This case study takes a close look at the city’s migrant integration programmes and services, examining how all levels of government participate in these programmes, as well as the growing role played by third-sector agencies. It considers how Berlin’s administration reacted to the sharp rise in asylum applications in 2015-16, rapidly updating existing integration measures as well as developing emergency ones. The integration of these newcomers needs to be monitored in order to demonstrate policy impact and to help establish whether such policies can be expanded to help other migrant groups that still experience wide socio-economic gaps compared to native population.


Overview of integration concepts and regulations at national and city level

Berlin has a long-standing history of integration policy making. The first Commissioner for Foreigners and a cross-sectorial working unit was established as early as in 1981. The position and unit were set up in response to large numbers of family reunifications of so called “guest-workers”. The main aim in establishing this new position was to combat discrimination and provide social and emergency counselling for newcomers in the city. Public campaigning to communicate the added value to the citizens of Berlin was part of the tasks of the units and commissioners. They also established a platform to network the many different volunteer and social initiatives in the city. Berlin was the first among the Länder to introduce a position as such in the federal republic. In 2003, a new person took over the post, which was subsequently renamed the “Commissioner for Migration and Integration”. In 2005, Berlin introduced its first integration concept, which was revised in 2007 and finally led to the establishment of the Participation and Integration Law. The latter guides today’s integration principles of the Berlin Commissioner for Migration and Integration.


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