Bavarian court overturns controversial integration law

Migrants would have been censured for not respecting German values

MUNICH, GERMANY - DECEMBER 03: Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder speaks during the award ceremony of the Bavarian Order Of Merit at Prinz-Carl-Palais on December 03, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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A court in Bavaria, Germany has ruled parts of a state law that would have fined migrants who refused to learn German or failed to respect the country’s values did not adhere to the region’s constitution.

The law had been proposed by the conservative Christian Social Union in Bavaria, which is linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.

The party had argued the law was necessary to handle the mass integration of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into Germany, which began when Mrs Merkel had opened the country’s doors amid the European migrant influx in 2015.

The law had been passed by the state legislature in December 2016 and came into action in 2017.

According to DW, it meant migrants had to "respect" Leitkultur as they try to integrate, which roughly translates as a "guiding culture" centred on German values. Critics in the state legislature, which include the Social Democrats and the Greens, say it is difficult to define the term and that German values and culture are often changing.

"The fact that there is an open debate about the nature of typical German values shows people are seeking descriptions that fit the category," education expert Yasemin Karakasoglu told DW.

Anti-migrant sentiment and support for right-wing populist groups have grown in Germany since the 2015 refugee influx.

“In Germany’s case, the situation would be made even more dramatic by the fact that the sudden influx of new arrivals were often young men coming predominantly from Muslim-majority countries,” a paper by the Brookings Institute analysing right-wing populist groups in Germany outlined.

Groups such as the Alternative for Germany have seen a surge in support as leaders focus on immigration, the institute said.