German minister: Migrants must integrate or face cut in benefits

Migrants in Germany must integrate into society or face a cut to their benefits, a minister has argued, signifying a hardening response from Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to the refugee crisis.

"Whoever comes here seeking protection and wanting to start a new life must stick to our rules and values," Labour Minister Andrea Nahles wrote in an op-ed for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Monday.

Nahles wrote that the government "will cut the benefits of anyone who signals that they do not want to integrate."

The minister noted that learning the German language is a key factor in migrants' and refugees' efforts to assimilate into society, alongside work and their ability to live independently of welfare support.

Over 1 million asylum seekers entered Germany last year, putting a massive strain on accommodation and regional resources. However, Nahles warned against focusing merely on the new arrivals and argued that the 1 million long-term unemployed people living in Germany are equally deserving of social support.

Merkel's open-doors policy on migrants and refugees has come under immense pressure recently, as members of her own coalition demand caps on arrivals.

The German Federal Employment Agency has estimated that 350,000 successful asylum seekers will be reliant on unemployment benefits from the state in 2016.

Dietler Scheele, a member of the agency's board of directors, was cautiously optimistic about their chances of finding jobs in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Monday.

"If it goes well, maybe 10 per cent of the arrivals will have a job within the first year, half of them after five years, and 70 per cent after 15 years," he said, while stressing that the prospects for long-term unemployed Germans are similar.

Last update: Mon, 01/02/2016 - 12:44

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