Cablegate: "Russian-Germans": Immigration and Integration

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The immigration and integration of ethnic
Germans and their families from the former Soviet Union
(Aussiedler) is a major social problem in Germany.
Newcomers' lack of German language skills makes them
unemployable and drug-related crimes and ghettoization are
endemic among Aussiedler youth. Government efforts at
promoting Aussiedler well-being and integration focus on
programs intended to help them improve their German language
skills. Although the number of Aussiedler has steadily
diminished since the early 1990s, the Aussiedler already in
Germany remain a festering social problem for which no
comprehensive solution has been implemented by the federal
or state governments. End summary.

Who are the "Aussiedler?"

2. (U) Aussiedler are descendents of Germans who were
immigrated to Russia beginning in the 18th century when
Czarina Catherine the Great, born into the German
aristocracy, invited Germans to settle in Russia. There was
continuous migration of Germans to Russian lands up until
the beginning of the Soviet Union. When Nazi Germany
invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin had the Aussiedler deported
to Soviet Central Asia. The 1949 Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Germany re-codified the longstanding
ethnic concept of German nationality; ethnic Germans were
guaranteed the right to German residence and citizenship.

3. (SBU) Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, ethnic
Germans from the Soviet Union were in a position to take
advantage of the citizenship law as well. Beginning in the
1990s, whole communities left the former Soviet Union to
settle in Germany. In addition to those who could prove
German ethnicity, family members including non-German
spouses and children were allowed to immigrate as well. In
response to the sudden surge in immigrants, the FRG set a
cap of 220,000 Aussiedler immigrants per year in 1993, and
in the same year enacted a new regulation requiring ethnic
German principals to pass a German language competency test.
Approximately 30 percent of applicants fail the test, which
supplements genealogical data to establish the applicants'
ethnic German bona fides. The annual number of Aussiedler
moving to Germany has decreased steadily and the cap has
never actually been met. In 2002, 91,000 Aussiedler
immigrated to Germany. Germany had targeted aid to
Aussiedler communities abroad to improve local conditions
and stem the flow, for example to ethnic German families in
Kazakhstan who were interested in resettlement in Siberia or
the Volga region of Russia. Such resettlement in Russia has
proved much less attractive to most of Centra Asia's ethnic
Germans than the possibility of starting a new life in

The Aussiedler in Southwest Germany

4. (SBU) Aussiedler were settled in Germany according to a
fixed formula in order to avoid what government officials
called in the mid-1990s "bunching." Hesse accepted 7.2
percent of all Aussiedler immigrants and Baden-Wuerttemberg
(B-W) 12.4 percent. (In B-W, this meant 11,245 persons in
2002; 12,093 in 2001; and 11,749 in 2000.) Almost 95
percent comes from the former Soviet Union (statistics do
not distinguish between Russia and the central Asian
republics, but German government officials believe that
former Russian and Kazakh nationals dominate this group.)
Many Germans do not perceive Aussiedler as Germans and
normally refer to them as "Russians" regardless of their
actual ethnicity. Only 25 percent of the Aussiedler are
actually ethnic Germans. The remaining 75 percent are
spouses and family members, often with no German background
or German language skills at all.

5. (SBU) Many Germans associate Aussiedler, particularly the
youth, with drugs and crime. Media reporting, sometimes
exaggerated, perpetuates this view. Aussiedler are
frequently mentioned in connection with organized crime.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported three cases of
human trafficking involving ethnic Germans from Russia in
recent months. Papers in the Frankfurt area attribute the
emergence of a new and stronger form of heroin to Aussiedler
drug gangs. The Associated Press reported that in July 2002
four Aussiedler were caught attacking an Iranian woman and
her son near Frankfurt. The article spoke of a "new breed
of right-wing extremism" growing among the Aussiedler
against other foreigners in Germany.

6. (SBU) The "drugs and crime" stereotype contains some
truth: Aussiedler youth tend to be more involved in criminal
activity. According to a 2002 police survey, every tenth
German juvenile offender was of ethnic Russian origin.
However, a spokesperson for the Frankfurt police cautioned
us not to view Aussiedler as more criminal than Germans.

The Drug Problem

7. (SBU) Particularly worrying to local officials is an
increase in drug abuse and drug-related crimes among young
Aussiedler. Rheinland-Pfalz (R-P) statistics document that
in urban areas with a high percentage of Aussiedler -- such
as the industrial city of Ludwigshafen home to the
multinational giant BASF -- every fourth person involved in
drugs is an Aussiedler. The police in R-P and other states
have also noticed an increase in violent crimes and a
growing number of HIV and tuberculosis among incarcerated
Aussiedler. One expert, Irene Troester, from Hohenheim
University near Stuttgart, states that there is a
misconception that young Aussiedler "imported" the drug
problem to Germany. She is the author of a comprehensive
study on Aussiedler and says that almost all these young
immigrants become involved with drugs after they arrive in
Germany. Troester, who immigrated from Kazakhstan at the
age of seven, says that young Aussiedler are under great
social and economic pressure. Already steeped in social
customs of heavy drinking, they turn to alcohol at age 14 or
15 and are then easily lured to drugs.

Social Isolation

8. (SBU) Many Aussiedler perceive an unwelcoming attitude
among native Germans, which probably contributes to the
social isolation of the community. Most Aussiedler are
settled in groups of over 100 in dedicated, often
geographically isolated apartment complexes. Cities
received subsidies for taking in Aussiedler in the 1990s and
built large housing complexes as the most economic means of
accommodation, and some were placed in renovated former
military facilities. According to Troester, politicians
often preferred to concentrate Aussiedler in one area in
order to avoid social problems they feared would be
associated with contact between native Germans and the
immigrants. "Then only one neighborhood goes bad," said

9. (SBU) Some Germans look upon the government's support of
Aussiedler with frustration and anger. Aussiedler receive
more housing assistance than many Germans or other
immigrants. Immigrants with large families, are entitled to
bigger homes. This creates the perception that an
Aussiedler family with poor German and few marketable skills
receives preferential treatment while other Germans and non-
German immigrants receive less. There is also a widespread
perception that many Aussiedler have fraudulently claimed
German ethnicity. The problems of crime and drug abuse have
further increased calls for an end to the "coddling" of
Aussiedler and their families.

Language As Key for Integration

10. (SBU) Government experts agree that acquiring language
skills is considered key for successful integration into
German society. According to Herbert Rech (CDU), the B-W
commissioner for Aussiedler, young immigrants do not feel
sufficiently compelled to learn German. The B-W Social
Democratic (SPD) Caucus Chief Wolfgang Drexler welcomed
Rech's comments saying, "The CDU is finally facing reality
concerning the Aussiedler community." To improve the
integration of Aussiedler, B-W is running a model project
known as the "integration guide." Newly arrived Aussiedler
sign a contract that lists their rights and obligations. A
social worker then acts as an advisor for the immigrant and
assists in the integration effort. B-W spends 4.4 million
Euro annually for integrating Aussiedler and is thus a
leader in southwest Germany.

11. (SBU) Hesse has no comprehensive Aussiedler policy, but
spends 655,000 Euro to support so called "expellee
organizations" (Vertriebenenverbaende). (NOTE: The name
dates back to the ethnic Germans who were expelled from
Eastern Europe in the immediate postwar period and
subsequently formed support groups.) Many Aussiedler do not
consider the associations helpful, however. "They only care
for people, who fled after the war, not those coming today,"
Troester said.


12. (SBU) The Aussiedler problem points up weaknesses in
German immigration policy. The Constitutional requirement
and political pressures that led to Germany's acceptance of
large numbers of Aussiedler in the early 1990s marked the
first time in Germany's history that the government had to
develop a management plan for large-scale immigration and
integration. As efforts to reform Germany's immigration law
continue, there is a tendency for experts as well as
politicians to call on approaches used to deal with
Aussiedler in handling other immigrants. However, the
Aussiedler actually represent a very special type of
immigrant, quite different from the skilled workers that
German immigration experts increasingly point to as the
future of German immigration and, indeed, of the German
population. Unlike economic migrants under a Canadian
immigration model, Aussiedler lack concrete reasons to learn
German and adapt to German society; they are both coddled
and isolated by the German government. Although the number
of Aussiedler settling in Germany continues to decline, the
large number already living in Southwest German remain a
festering social problem. There are indications that this
problem might be exacerbated by the Southwest's increasing
role as a preferred residence for Aussiedler originally
settled in Eastern states, whose native populations have
reputations for being especially unwelcoming. End Comment.

13. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.


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