Germany to adopt integration law for refugees
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners agreed Thursday to adopt a new law to facilitate integration of refugees into society and the labor market.

Merkel hailed agreement on the basic elements of the "integration law” as a big step forward in addressing the problems faced by more than one million refugees Germany accepted last year.

"For the first time in the history of Germany, we will adopt a federal law on integration; that is a qualitative improvement,” Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on Thursday.

Merkel said the new law, which the government intends to finalize by May 24, would improve language and vocational education courses for refugees and would create new job opportunities.

She stressed that the law would be based on the principle of "making demands and providing support”, it will list obligations for migrants such as participating in language and integration courses, while improving their conditions.

According to a six-page document hammered out among Merkel’s coalition partners on Wednesday night, the integration law will make it easier for firms to hire migrants if they are recognized as refugees seeking international protection.

Government funds will be used to create 100,000 additional jobs but migrants who do not take part in integration or language courses would see cuts to their welfare benefits.

The planned law will make it easier for migrants who successfully integrate to get a long-term residence permit.

Merkel’s coalition partner – the Social Democratic Party, or SPD – also welcomed the agreement as a "historic step”.

SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel said the new law does not intend assimilation but aims at having migrants well-integrated into Germany.

"Whoever wants to be part of us, will have better opportunities to make his or her contribution to society,” he said, adding that well-integrated migrants will also have a chance in future to gain German citizenship.

Germany is shouldering the largest part of Europe’s refugee crisis, with taking in a record 1.1 million refugees in 2015. Syrians were the largest group with 428,000, followed by 154,000 Afghans and 121,000 Iraqis.

- New measures in fight against terrorism -

Merkel and her coalition partners also agreed on Thursday a new package of anti-terror measures amid growing threats by extremists.

The measures would strengthen the competence of the security forces in searching telecommunications data, allowing more undercover officers to be deployed in the fight against organized crime and terrorism.

Planned legislative changes would introduce heavier penalties for financial institutions and banks that violate laws. They would also make it compulsory for telecommunications companies to take the ID copies and exact address details of their customers, as well as those purchasing prepaid SIM cards.

The coalition partners also agreed changes in legislation to facilitate closer cooperation between German intelligence services and their partners abroad in combating terrorism.

Last Modified: 2016-04-15 11:12:16
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