BERLIN (AP) — Seeking to better integrate the 1.1 million asylum-seekers who arrived last year, Germany's governing parties agreed Thursday to get newcomers into the workforce faster, promote broader German language skills and prevent migrant ghettos from forming in big cities.
The measures, which will be discussed with state governors before they're presented to Parliament, seek to strike a balance between giving migrants easier access to jobs and integration courses while also increasing expectations of them.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters the proposals make clear "there are duties and obligations for all who come to us."
The measures foresee creating 100,000 government-funded "job opportunities" for migrants, according to a copy of the plan obtained by The Associated Press. They also would suspend for three years a rule that excludes asylum-seekers from jobs unless no German or European Union citizen can fill them.
"The core idea is to attempt to integrate as many people in the labor force as possible," Merkel said.
One of the key components to Merkel's attempts so far to deal with the influx of migrants has been to streamline the system so those fleeing conflict and persecution and likely to receive asylum will receive it faster, and so-called "economic" migrants just looking for better jobs will be sent home quickly.
In line with that philosophy, the jobs being created wouldn't be available to economic migrants, according to the plan.
However, the expanded orientation courses for migrants would still be encouraged even for those with little chance of receiving asylum, with the idea that some will stay and would benefit from them, while others would still profit from the training when they return to their homelands.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the idea of creating an integration law for the first time in Germany was a "historic step" and called the proposed measures "a good foundation."
Other elements of the plan include reducing the waiting times for integration courses teaching German, but making language classes mandatory for more migrants.
In an attempt to prevent migrant ghettos, the new regulations would take away benefits from anyone who moves away from where they have been officially resettled. Details will be determined by individual states, but migrants could be allowed to resettle if they find a job elsewhere.