Turkey and Germany signed a historic labor force agreement on October 30th 1961. Millions of Turks flocked to Germany in the ensuing years to search for better financial lives. Nearly 6 decades later, more than 3 million Turks live in Germany. Despite being fourth or fifth generation, one of the biggest problems according to German-side is integration of Turks into the German society. Turks, on the other hand, widely believe they have done everything on their part for a successful integration. Facts on the field indeed prove that opinion right. Turkish community in Germany has been quietly playing a vital role in integration of refugees. One Turkish NGO in the western city of Ludswighafen especially stands out by its successful activities.
46 years old Ercan Ozcan was born and raised in Germany, as was his father. Although proud of his Turkish roots, he sees Germany as his homeland. “It is extremely tough to be questioned for integration in your own country. I dont need to integrated because I am constitutive member of this society,” says Ozcan. He set up Turk Toplumu Platformu Birligi (TTPB) a few years back to carry out humanitarian and cultural activities in Ludswighafen and its surrounding areas. Ozcan remembers how he and his friends in the NGO sat down to brainstorm what they could to help when the refugee influx hit Germany. “We have at least religion in common with most of them. Culturally we are quite close as well. So as the members of German society, we had to help,” Ozcan punctuated.
At first, Ozcan’s NGO, TTPB, provided food for refugees who arrived in Ludswighafen. TTPB found big market chains owned by the members of Turkish community whom were willing to donate food. “We prepared packages for a few hundred of them every week,” said Ozcan. After a couple of years, most refugees settled in temporary shelters and somewhat solved the food issue but the vital part started from there. Then TTPB started German classes for refugees which Ozcan says the one of the most vital part of an integration process. “If one wants be part if this (German) society, he or she needs to learn the language first. So that is what we decided to work on first,” Ozcan uttered excitingly when he walked us through the office. They found an Iraqi-German academic who spoke both German and Arabic and started German classes three days a week. At least 5 refugees from Syria and Iraq regularly attends the classes now. The number goes up to 15-20 at times.
Germany reportedly took in 1 million refugees when millions of them left Syria and other troubled countries back in 2015. However, refugee influx widely in Europe but specifically in Germany caused far right sentiments to increase so that xenophobic German party AFD entered the Federal parliament for the first time in history. Having population of 85 million, Germany could not absorbed 1 million people from other ethnic and religious background. A Recent poll showed that AFD is actually became the second biggest party in the Parliament. And most recently neo-Nazis carried out the biggest far right protests in the eastern German city of Chemnitz past couple of weeks.
“If someone does not do something to turn this far-right tide, we will be in deep trouble,” said Ozcan. He says the best way to ease the anti -refugee tension in Germany is to quickly integrate them into the society and turn them into contributing individuals. “We are a bridge right now which could save Germany from further falling in far right trap,” Oczan added. The only thing that hurts their fight to save Germany’s future is to be a subject of integration argument.