“New immigrants need good educational opportunities, regardless of where they are headed.”
Three questions for Dipl. Päd. Hosay Adina-Safi: The research assistant at the Institute of Intercultural and International Comparative Education at the University of Hamburg explains how refugees can be received by our society and the importance of encounters during that process.
Ms Adina-Safi, how can refugees find access to our society and into working life as quickly as possible?
Our society is characterised by the ideal example of individuals actively integrating themselves and contributing to the shaping of their surroundings. This is how coexistence works – be it in our neighbourhoods, sports clubs, through volunteer work or in our careers. Newly immigrated adults do not have these access points from the very start, and their ability to actively participate is often limited by an insufficient knowledge of German. Waiting until their German skills have improved to such a degree that they can be integrated in occupational measures often means that they will wait for a period spanning several years. This is why it would be extremely beneficial to develop programs which help refugees to learn German while they take advantage of opportunities in the job market. Refugees can be given access to work placements, apprenticeships, retraining or further training while receiving consultation and support so that existing knowledge, skills and interests can be used as orientation and be built upon.
How important for integration is it for refugees and locals to interact with one another?
It is always important for people who are building and shaping a community to encounter one another as well. Encounters alone are not everything, however. Encounters need to pave the way for coexistence – prejudices can be dissipated, people will be able to get to know one another better on a personal level, differences can be smoothed over.
During this process it is important that xenophobic or paternalistic thinking is addressed and eliminated through the use of logical augmentation. We are living in a time when anyone at anytime can be branded as not belonging to a certain group, and we need to learn that no one can feel comfortable when they are discriminated against.
When it comes to the corporate environment, work groups can be formed and promoted by management to establish an open culture for all employees in the company. This can be supplemented with sports activities, group outings or language classes offered by the company. It is especially internationally-active companies with years of experience with employees from all over the world that manage to approach diversity, which is the norm for them, in a positive way with good diversity concepts.
How can these kinds of encounters help people to have mutual understanding for one another when it comes to cultural differences?
Joint activities, positive encounters and – when it comes to prejudice – recognition that prejudices have no basis help to develop understanding for the lives of others which one may not have perceived previously. Even if one assumes cultural differences, many aspects can be best explained within their contexts, making them not so foreign after all.
Promoting general appreciation and avoiding placing a negative overtone on differences – these are sustainable investments which can also be very significant for the culture of a company.