Rural Germany an ‘Integration Laboratory’ for Refugees

Mathilde Richter, Yahoo! News, January 25, 2016

German villages and small towns could hold the key to socially integrating a mass influx of refugees who would in turn help revitalise dwindling rural populations, experts say.

“The rural regions are a laboratory of integration,” said Karl-Friedrich Thoene from the infrastructure and agriculture ministry of the eastern state of Thuringia.

Unlike in densely populated big cities, “there can be no parallel societies in rural areas,” he said. “The village community is the ideal chance for integration.”

The lower cost of living, cheaper rents and tight-knit communities in the countryside are main “factors of success” for integrating the newcomers, said Gudrun Kirchhoff, an expert on refugee issues at the German Institute of Urban Affairs.

Social life in small communities is typically held together by clubs and associations in which most villagers take part, experts point out.

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While refugees are obliged to stay in their assigned accommodation during the asylum application process, they are free to move once they are given refugee status.

And many choose to move to the cities, where more of their compatriots live or the employment prospects are better.

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