Searching for facts in Germany’s integration debate

12 October 2010

Politicians too show a weakness for the periodic departure from reality, particularly when there are votes to be gained — and, as recent experience has shown in Germany, particularly when the subject is the integration of Muslim immigrants. The most recent example was provided by Horst Seehofer, who is not only governor of Bavaria, Germany’s most economically powerful state, but is also the head of the Christian Social Union, a party which is tightly allied with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and has three ministers in her cabinet.

“It is clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties (with integration),” Seehofer intoned in an interview with the newsmagazine Focus published on Monday. “From that I draw the conclusion that we don’t need additional immigration from other cultures.” The statement, predictably, drew all manner of protests from Germany’s opposition, particularly from the center-left Social Democrats and from the Green Party.

As it happens, there is no Muslim immigration to Germany to speak of. In 2009, a total of 721,000 foreigners immigrated to Germany according to the German Federal Statistical Office — and 734,000 moved away. Of those who arrived, a mere 30,000 were from Turkey, roughly equal to the average number of people of Turkish origin who have left Germany annually in recent years. The rest of the Top Five source countries for immigrants to Germany were Poland, Romania, the United States and Bulgaria, hardly countries known for their outsized Muslim populations.