BONN — Germans must accept that their country has become a melting pot with at least 6.5 million immigrants, and they must adopt anti-discrimination laws to fight racism, the government's representative for immigrant affairs said Thursday.
Despite a number of fatal extreme-rightist attacks on foreigners in recent years, immigrants are moving to Germany in growing numbers and staying longer, Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobson, the representative for the interests of foreigners, told reporters. "We should recognize that we are an immigrant country," Schmalz-Jacobson said.
Issuing her first in-depth report, "The Situation of Foreigners in Germany," she said that more than half of all immigrants have lived in Germany for at least a decade; 25% have been here for more than 20 years.
For that reason, she said, Germans should quit calling them \o7 foreigners \f7 and start referring to them by what she called the more acceptable term \o7 migrants\f7 .
Immigrants have been assimilating into German society over the last 20 years, climbing the educational and professional ladders and marrying Germans in ever-greater numbers. Yet they remain subject to discrimination in housing, jobs, insurance coverage and even entrance to restaurants and discotheques.
Her report says anti-discrimination laws "could bring fundamental improvements" in these areas.
Violent attacks on foreigners have decreased in recent months, but Schmalz-Jacobson said that, according to a government poll, almost half of all immigrants live in fear of such an attack.
"It is intolerable for a democratic country that a part of the population has to worry for their lives," she said.
She renewed her longstanding call for a liberalization of Germany's citizenship laws.
Foreign-born adults now must live in Germany for 15 years before they may seek citizenship; children born in Germany of foreign parents must wait 10 years and relinquish any other citizenship.
Schmalz-Jacobson's report states that it represents her own views as an adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and that of the center-right coalition that has ruled Germany for 12 years.
The government's figure of 6.5 million legal immigrants--8% of the population--is from 1992 and presumably is larger now.
The government also estimates that there are 300,000 illegal immigrants in Germany--a figure some consider low.