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Stefan Luft
Stefan Luft

"Any policy oriented towards the future of people in one country has to bid farewell to multiculturalism."

(Stefan Luft, Farewell to Multikulti, p. 412)

Stefan Luft, an expert on migration and integration, is a lecturer at the university of Bremen.

Stefan Luft is a harsh critic of Germany's integration and immigration policies. His book Farewell to Multikulti (Abschied von Multikulti), published in 2006, has had a large impact on the German debate on integration. The book was widely discussed by policy makers and the German media. What makes it particularly important for Germany's Great Debate is that one of its strongest recommendations concerns German foreign policy towards Turkey. In order not to make Germany's integration crisis even worse, Luft argues, German politicians must prevent Turkish accession to the EU.

Ethnic colonies

Across 454 pages, Farewell to Multikulti investigates the history of the integration of foreigners, mainly Turks, in Germany since the early 1960s. It does so against a background set out at the very beginning of the book: honour killings in Berlin, violence in the suburbs of Paris in 2006, the murder of film director van Gogh in Amsterdam and the scandal in the Berlin Ruttli school in early 2006, which Luft describes as a "symbol of German integration policy". In early 2006 the teachers at the Berlin Ruttli school in the Neukolln district had written a desperate letter complaining that rampant violence and threats from their students (81 percent of them with a "migration background", mainly Arabs and Turks) had made their job impossible. Things were out of control. The pupils came from failed families, lived in substandard housing, had criminal records, and were prone to violence. They were also in a hopeless situation. Not one of the 60 pupils who completed the school in 2006 had found a place for further vocational training.

The book connects the fears of the moment with a historic failure. It makes for grim reading. Was Ruttli the future of German inner cities? In 2006 there were 62 schools in Berlin where the percentage of non-German (mother tongue) students was higher than 60. In 29 schools more than 80 percent of pupils were non-German. Such schools will become increasingly common, Luft warns, pointing to the net decline in the number of German citizens since the early 1970s (until the revision of the 2000 law on citizenship) and a parallel rise in the number of foreigners, particularly Turks. By 2050 the descendants of foreigners (not counting future changes of citizenship) will account for 38 percent of the total population under the age of 20. In Germany's cities, however, this future is already visible. In West Berlin, writes Luft, "the share of the descendants of foreigners among the population under the age 20 will reach 52 percent by 2015." (Luft, p. 33) By then, "Germans" will have become a minority (note, however, the use of the concept of "German": why is a descendant of an immigrant forever marked as "non-German"?).

What does this mean for the future of Germany’s cities? Luft argues that it will become increasingly difficult to "integrate" these "non-Germans" as they turn from minority into a majority. This is already made difficult due to their concentration in "ethnic colonies", neighbourhoods where speaking German is no longer necessary. The Berlin districts of Neukolln or Kreuzberg offer a taste of the future, says Luft. They are areas "where it is possible to fulfil most of one's needs for commercial and social relations within the Islamic community, avoiding all contact with non-Muslims." (Luft, p. 145)

What is life like in such ethnic colonies? Luft describes a world where women are mistreated, where crime rates are rising, where schools are out of control. People are poor: in the Berlin district of Neukoll, 65 percent of the population live below the poverty line (Luft, p. 160). Unemployment is rampant and unlikely to drop: 90 percent of unemployed people of Turkish origin in Berlin have no vocational training whatsoever (Luft, p. 162). Among young (age 16-21) Turkish adults in Berlin, one out of two is unemployed (Luft, p. 163). Foreigners survive in Berlin through state aid. In the central Berlin district of Wedding, 40 percent of children spend the first five years of their life in families that receive social assistance. In Neukolln 36 percent of households receive assistance. Not having work is becoming a "normal lifestyle" in such communities. Given the lack of any positive role models, children and adolescents begin to look up to criminals (Luft, p. 189).

Such ethnic colonies are "trapped in a vicious circle": bad schools, no incentives to learn good German, a collapse of values which sometimes leads to religious radicalisation, which in turn deepens the gap to mainstream society. In the future, says Luft, things will get even worse. In the district of North Neukolln (home of the Ruttli school), 17 percent of those older then 61 are of foreign origin, compared to 42 percent of those aged 3-6. Luft also stresses the phenomenon of "import brides". "Some 60 percent of marriages of Turkish citizens in Germany are with somebody from Turkey," he writes. (Luft, p. 191) Citing Necla Kelek, Luft discusses the ways in which such brides reinforce the ethnic colony structure: they speak no German and bring the backward values of uneducated Anatolians to German cities.

Luft's chapter headings make clear where all of this is leading: "Influence of Islamism", "Ethnic colonies, violence and crime", "Wall of silence", "Youth and violence", "Religion and violence", "Organised crime", "Honour killings" … (Luft, p. 201 – 241).

There are many villains in Luft's story: the Turkish governments of the early 1970s, which lobbied Germany to accept guest workers; German business elites, which sabotaged the notion that guest workers would return home after a certain period to be replaced by new workers; and naïve German politicians who opened the way to a largely unregulated family unification process in the 1970s. But the most important targets of Luft's criticism are all those in Germany who had succumbed to "multi-cultural illusions", ignoring problems and arguing in favour of respecting the immigrants’ cultural heritage.

Why Turkey must not join the EU

This analysis leads Luft to make a number of recommendations: to lower the percentage of non-German pupils in schools; to insist on German language skills for new migrants; and to focus more resources on education. At the same time, the priority of German policy must be to stop further immigration into ethnic colonies. This, says Luft, requires a German veto on possible Turkish EU accession.

Luft's Turkey is as grim a place as Neukolln. The country he describes is one where (as he puts in an article in Der Spiegel) only 68 percent of girls go to school, where entire regions remain underdeveloped, and where a huge reservoir of unskilled potential workers awaits the chance to move to Germany. "It is unclear whether Turkish policy makers and economic growth can solve these problems" (Luft p. 445):

"Germany is the EU member which would be most affected by Turkey's EU membership. Without doubt it is not in the interest of Germany that Turkish citizens obtain the full freedom to move within the EU as a result of Turkish accession." (Stefan Luft, p. 447)

Luft sharply criticises the former SPD-Green government under Chancellor Gerhard Schroder for having promoted Turkish EU accession:

"There is a clear connection between the integration of the migrants from Turkey who already live here and their offspring as well as the degree of further immigration. Previous governments – including the Social Democrats – had been aware of the fact that better integration and strict immigration control go together. It is the duty of responsible politicians to reconsider the mid- and long-term consequences of those decisions that might trigger migration or at least encourage it as a result of Turkey's EU accession." (Stefan Luft, p. 442)

Suggested readings

There are no texts by Stefan Luft available in English. This is a sample of books, lectures and articles by Stefan Luft on multi-culturalism, integration and Turks in Germany:

  • Stefan Luft, Abschied von Multikulti. Wege ausder Integrationskrise (Farewell to Multikulti), Grafelfing 2006
  • Stefan Luft, Auslanderpolitik in Deutschland. Mechanismen,Manipulation, Missbrauch (Policytowards foreigners in Germany), 2002
  • Stefan Luft, Einmal Türke, immer Türke? (Once a Turk, always a Turk?),Anmerkungen aus Anlass der Kölner Rede Recep Tayyip Erdogans, PolitischeStudien, May/June 2008
  • Stefan Luft criticizesErdogan's visit in Germany in February 2008. Erdogan had called on Turksin Germany to lobby German policymakers: "The German polity shouldmake clear to the spokespersons of Turkish interests that while lobbyingis legitimate, poisoning the political climate in Germany is harmful toall."
  • Stefan Luft, Staat und Integration – Zur Steuerbarkeit von Integrationsprozessen,in: Sozialwissenschaftlicher Fachinformationsdienst (soFid), Migration undethnische Minderheiten 2008/1, S. 11-39. Luft writes about the conditions,possibilities and limits of state policies concerning integration: "Youngimmigrants without perspectives will not identify with the community wherethey live. In ethnic colonies they see for themselves neither the chanceto finish school nor a possibility to start a job. They see themselves inmany ways as excluded from the upward mobility which society offers toothers."
  • Stefan Luft, Staat und Migration. Anmerkungen zur Steuerungskrise (State and Migration), inSozialwissenschaftliches Journal Nr. 5, December 2007
  • Stefan Luft, Die Dynamik der Desintegration - Zum Stand derAuslanderintegration in deutschen Grossstadten (The Dynamic of Desintegration), 2002. "Migration always causesconflicts. These conflicts are often related – especially in the case ofmigrants from non-European countries – to cultural differences. To talkabout this has nothing to do with racism."

November 2010

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