Germany learning to open arms to immigrants, a U-turn from 'children instead of Indians' slogan

Jul 21 2013, 19:52 IST
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Migrants have growing share of vote, courted by parties (AP) Migrants have growing share of vote, courted by parties (AP)
SummaryMigrants have growing share of vote, courted by parties

Ata Ucertas, a doctor from Istanbul with a moustache that curls up his cheeks, was welcomed with open arms when he came to Germany this year, evidence of a shift in German attitudes as its population shrinks and labour becomes scarce.

Helped by a shortage of doctors in Germany, the 25-year-old Ucertas was issued with a visa to come learn German within two months of applying. "The immigration officials were really nice to me," he said.

After decades of tending to depict the millions of residents of Turkish origin in Germany as a drag on society, policymakers are now courting foreigners and learning to be more inclusive.

A fifth of residents and a third of school children have a migrant background, making up a growing share of the electorate.

With elections approaching in September, the changing attitudes are reflected in the rhetoric of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

A decade ago when unemployment was high and immigration laws strict, Merkel's party campaigned on slogans like "Kinder statt Inder" (Children instead of Indians). Now they are calling for a "welcome culture" towards migrants.

"Germany is making a lot of effort to promote immigration because of the very severe demographic situation which will affect it more than virtually any other OECD country," said OECD migration expert Thomas Liebig.

"The discussion about a welcome culture is part of the whole process of becoming a country for which migration is normal."

With joblessness near its lowest level since the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, the country faces a shortage of 5.4 million skilled workers by 2025, despite attempts to mobilise women and older people.

Nearly 300,000 people, mainly from the European Union, migrated on a long-term basis to Germany in 2011, OECD data shows, around a third more than in 2010. Most came from the eastern states that joined the EU in 2004, such as Poland.

UNNOTICED REVOLUTION

Germany has long been notorious for its bureaucratic hurdles and an offputting attitude towards economic migration.

The hundreds of thousands of "guest workers" recruited from Italy, Greece, Turkey and other southern states in the 1960s to help it rebuild from the rubble of World War Two were not encouraged to integrate and learn the language, though many did.

Fearing unemployment in the 1970s oil crisis, Germany shut its doors and tried to repatriate the no longer welcome guests.

Influxes of asylum seekers and ethnic Germans from the ex-Soviet Union in the 1990s and the challenges of reunification made

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