A prominent Green Party politician has said Germans worried about mass immigration should learn Arabic to communicate with new arrivals from the Middle East, comparing it to Americans learning Spanish to speak to Mexicans.
The comments from Volker Beck, the left-wing party’s spokesman on migration issues perhaps best known for his drugs arrest over the possession of crystal meth earlier this year, sparked a row about integration in Germany.
“Other countries are more relaxed about the fact that in some areas a community with a migration background speaks another language,” Mr. Beck said in an interview with broadcaster N-TV. “In the U.S., just visit their Chinatowns, or you can find areas where Mexicans live,” he continued.
“[Foreign languages] create a discomfort, because people have the feeling that they don’t understand everything”, he added. “But if it’s really important to people, they should learn the language, then they would understand what’s going on.”
Christina Schwarzer, a Christian Democrat MP in Neukölln, an area of Berlin with a large migrant population, was quick to criticise the suggestion.
“Then we can give up on any effort to integrate [migrants],” she told Bild. “Learning German is the cornerstone of integration.”
As a backlash grew, Mr. Beck responded on Facebook, claiming that he did want migrants to learn German, but maintained that people should think about learning foreign languages and police should have more “intercultural competence”.
“This is nonsense. People who want to live in Germany have to learn, understand and speak German,” he wrote. “In Germany, nobody needs to learn another language to understand migrants and refugees, but they have to learn German.
“Police and social workers we need more intercultural competence with sufficient staff and integration skills. It is important we make the offer of integration courses,” he added.