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The Art of Integration in Germany


Many developed nations are struggling to assimilate large numbers of immigrants. Even in the United States, which sees itself as a nation of immigrants, it is difficult for immigrants to integrate. In European countries with strong national and racial identities, many immigrants feel they will never be accepted. It is a difficult problem with no clear-cut solution. But as VOA's Brian Padden reports, there is a program in Germany that is using art to help young people integrate into society.

Young people come to this after school arts program called Fusion, in the German capital, Berlin, to have fun.

But once here, Fusion's Marta Galvis de Janza hopes to help them become good German citizens.

"Art is used as a means, as a way for young people to express themselves. And to find out how they feel in this country,” she says. “Do they assimilate? Do they want to be integrated or maybe they just don't fit as expressed through their art."

They are children of immigrants, mostly from Lebanon and Turkey, whose parents originally came to Germany looking for work.

Some immigrants such as barber Mustafa Hleihel have successfully integrated into German society. "We are multi-cultural. I am from Turkey. He is from Lebanon,” he says of his co-worker. “And I feel happy here in Germany."

But others do not. Today, government statistics show that unemployment and poverty rates in Germany are higher among immigrant communities. Some native Germans resent immigrants who do not learn the language or embrace the German culture.

"It's like two cultures. They should not force us to use their culture here in Germany," comments one German resident of Berlin.

Even if they are born in Germany, children of immigrants are not automatically guaranteed citizenship. They can earn it by taking German language, history and culture classes. But Nevim Cil, a professor of ethnology at Humboldt University in Berlin, says many immigrants feel they will never be accepted here.

"What makes these immigrants frustrated, even if they obtain citizenship, is nothing changes in their daily lives,” she says. “So the citizenship does not mean acceptance in the daily lives. If you apply for a job, you will always be seen as Turkish or Italian."

While Fusion takes a creative approach to integration, advocates for immigrants say more education and employment opportunities are needed to make these children productive members of society. And they say long-term residents must come to terms with the fact that the face of Germany is changing.

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