Berlin Integration Official Criticizes Welcome Classes for Refugees Due to Lack of German Language Instruction

Integration officials believe that the approach to welcoming newly arrived migrant children and youth is flawed. They argue that learning the language in welcome classes, where German is rarely spoken, is difficult and that long stays in reception centers hinder integration.

Katarina Niewiedzial, Berlin’s Commissioner for Integration, accused the Senate of taking the wrong approach in accommodating refugees, including in education policy. According to Niewiedzial, “There are currently more than 2,000 newly arrived migrant children and youth waiting for a place in school in Berlin, and the number is increasing.” She criticized the Senate’s decision to teach children in refugee accommodations during emergencies, deeming it incorrect from an integration policy perspective.

Berlin is facing a significant crisis in educating refugees in schools, with many classes and schools closed. According to the Commissioner, there is a shortage of 27,000 school places and a lack of school staff capable of providing high-quality education. She rejects blaming refugees for these issues, stating that the most vulnerable people are harmed by the education system crisis.

From an integration policy standpoint, schools are the appropriate place for children’s education, not accommodations. Schools provide a comprehensive environment where migrant children can meet other children and youths, fostering connections to the country they currently live in. Niewiedzial opposes separating children and youth from schools and rejects welcome classes held in accommodations due to their ineffectiveness.

Drawing from her personal experience as a migrant from Poland in the 1990s, Niewiedzial noted that she found it difficult to learn German in welcome classes where no one spoke the language. She later moved to a regular school with special language support classes, which greatly helped her learn German quickly.

The Commissioner also questions the expansion of large accommodations in Berlin, as they are costly and do not aid integration. Interaction between migrants and others is crucial for integration, which also applies to education that helps refugees mix with others. Niewiedzial believes that long-term accommodation of 4,500 people in places like Tegel is unsuitable for refugees. Reception centers should be used for distribution, with stays lasting only a few days.

Migrants in reception centers, such as the airport area in Tegel, face many difficulties, with only a few children receiving education. Significant efforts are needed to enable migrants to find suitable housing to facilitate access to Berlin.

Social Senator Cansel Kiziltepe agrees with the Integration Commissioner, advocating for decentralized accommodations distributed throughout the city. Niewiedzial hopes that city and municipality leaders will visit Tegel to understand that decentralized housing is the only solution for migrant integration.


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