Aliye Turkyilmaz hits the markets and busy shopping streets of German capital Berlin’s predominantly Turkish immigrant district of Neukoelln three times a week to hand out informational flyers on the coronavirus pandemic.
Being a Turkish immigrant himself, the 48-year-old explains the dangers of COVID-19 to people often not reached through traditional channels like newspapers and TV channels.
Thousands of German residents of foreign roots like Turks, Arabs and even Polish lack necessary language skills despite living in Germany for generations. The reason for this dramatic fact lies behind Germany’s failed policies or even reluctance to integrate its large minority communities.
Jasmin Mimis from Berlin says her relatives in the United States all speak English and gained citizenships despite only 20 years of residence but her own grandparents lack German skills – and German passport- after nearly 6 decades in Germany.
Living in a confined community with insufficient language skills makes especially older people vulnerable against the coronavirus.
Immigrants earning much less comparing to Germans is also another important factor for relatively high infections in immigrant-occupied neighborhoods. Low income means often living in cramped quarters like Neukoeln, using crowded public transport, and having jobs that are commonly in high-risk areas such as the food service industry.
Turkish community leaders like Kazim Erdogan hopes that immigrants like Turks will be able to break through the reasons like sense of nonacceptance and go beyond the state and fight back the virus despite negative conditions.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted last week that it was very hard for immigrants of Turkish origins to feel that they are welcome here (in Germany) and that they have equal chances after experiencing racist murders like Hanau and NSU.
Turkyilmaz is part of a multi-langual NGO called “intercultural educational team,” or IKAT which aims to raise awareness among Berlin’s other immigrant communities as well.
But the German media meanwhile keep targeting immigrant communities over coronavirus infections as well. German Bild last week claimed that most ICU cases in the country were people with immigrant roots thus trying to put the blame for high casualties on immigrants.