The media has frequently reported on the deplorable conditions in the area with too many people crowded together, backyards choked with rubbish and broken front doors. Many migrants have no health insurance, so their children donʹt get the vaccinations they need and lots of people depend on the volunteers at free clinics for their health care. Policemen have been verbally harassed and sometimes even attacked.

Writer Hatice Akyun was born in Duisburg-Marxloh and her parents still live there. "Of course there are problems, just like there are in certain districts in Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt," she told the Welt Online news site. "But thatʹs not down to the migrants.... it is down to the failures of a government that gave up on these districts long ago."

The problem with ghettoisation

Islam expert Yasemine El-Menouar takes a similar view. Many former guest workers lost their jobs during the industrial crisis between 1980 and 1990, a major trigger in the development of these disadvantaged areas. "Working-class neighbourhoods have become pockets of extreme poverty." Those who could afford to have moved away. "It is always problematic when disadvantaged populations are concentrated in segregated neighbourhoods."

A woman and child walk past a house earmarked for demolition in Duisburg-Marxloh, 20.12.2016 (photo: Roland Weihrauch/dpa)
Districts abandoned by the government: "living in these areas makes it difficult for people to find a job and perpetuates local unemployment. Those who live in these districts are met with mistrust and reluctance from employers when they mention their place of residence, street or postal code," says Erol Yildiz, professor of intercultural education at the Austrian Alpine Adriatic University in Klagenfurt

Erol Yildiz, professor of intercultural education at the Austrian Alpine Adriatic University in Klagenfurt, detailed the consequences of living in Muslim communities such as Cologne-Kalk, Berlin-Neukolln or Hamburg-Veddel in an article for the online portal www.islamiq.de: "the massive stigma associated with living in these areas makes it difficult to find a job and perpetuates local unemployment, because the people who live in these districts are met with mistrust and reluctance from employers when they mention their place of residence, street or postal code."

"Migrant neighbourhoods are not always poverty-stricken areas," El-Menouar emphasises. They often have an established "migrant infrastructure" that can facilitate integration – especially for new migrants, who come in contact with migrants who have lived in the country for some time. Society overall could benefit from cultural and religious diversity, she adds, if the German public took a more open approach to and broadened its view of Muslims. Integration could truly succeed – despite all the obstacles – in both Germany and in Europe as a whole.

Tonio Postel

© Goethe-Institut 2018

Translated from the German by Sarah Smithson-Compton

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