The first Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration was appointed in 1978. Dignitaries, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and around 1000 guests from politics, science, industry, media and associations, gathered in Berlin on Wednesday to celebrate the milestone and put a focus on the integration of migrants in the country again.
Chancellor Angela Merkel considers the integration of migrants a matter of reason and justice. In order to remain an economically prosperous country, Germany needs immigration, said Merkel on Wednesday in Berlin at a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the post of Integration Commissioner (Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration). Diversity and participation make a country really strong, she said.
Integration is a collective duty, the Chancellor continued, “From those who come here and from those who have lived here for generations.”
Merkel admitted that Germans needed a long time to talk about integration. And the CDU, her party, took a particularly long time to acknowledge that Germany was an immigration country, said the Chancellor. Today, she sees integration as a cross-cutting task, “as a job description for every minister and for the Federal Chancellor as well,” said Merkel. To enforce it still means “often driving against windmills”, indicating that there is still resistance to the integration of migrants in the country.
The current Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Annette Widmann-Mauz, also appealed to society to understand that immigration was as an opportunity and to view and experience diversity on the basis of the Basic Law as a value. “If we are certain of our own values, we need not be afraid of the future,” Widmann-Mauz, who holds the federal cabinet rank of a Minister of State, said.
The CDU politician criticized right-wing populists as the “true integration objectors”. These people would actually need the “orientation courses in democracy and constitutional law intended for migrants,” Widmann-Mauz said.
The Left faction in the Bundestag however criticized that the office of the Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government had for 40 years no more than an alibi function. They often recognized the challenges of migration and integration correctly, but the government did not act accordingly, criticized the party‘s integration spokeswoman Gökay Akbulut. It is not enough to send the integration officials to coffee parties with photo appointments. “Rather, the proposals should be taken seriously and implemented by migration experts,” demanded Akbulut.
The immediate past Federal Integration Commissioner, Aydan Özaguz, demanded more authority for the office. After 40 years and given the current world situation, a significant appreciation of the position of the integration minister was finally needed. The best would be to create a separate ministry for integration, the SPD politician recommended.
The Office of the Integration Commissioner was created in 1978 and initially located at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The first holder of the office, named “Commissioner for the Promotion of the Integration of Foreign Workers and their Family Members”, was the SPD politician Heinz Kühn. From 2002 to 2005, the office was assigned to the Ministry of Family Affairs, and in 2005 it was taken by Chancellor Merkel to the Federal Chancellery and thus upgraded.