Germany will not tolerate xenophobia and hate against people with an immigrant background, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today. Steinmeier made his remarks during a ceremony at the Bellevue Palace marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the German-Turkish labour agreement. The president thanked Turkish immigrants who arrived Germany in the 1960s for contributing to the country's economic growth and its transformation into a culturally diverse and rich society.
"The people who came at that time, who were called guest workers: You, your children, your grandchildren are today part of what makes Germany. A Germany without you is simply not imaginable hereafter," he explained. "Immigrants, their children and grandchildren are not only working in factories today, but also in some research facilities. Among them are artists and musicians, entrepreneurs and vaccine developers, judges and public prosecutors, lawmakers, state secretaries or ministers."
Steinmeier acknowledged that it took many years for Germans to acknowledge that theirs is a country of immigration, and added that for many years the authorities also neglected policies for the integration of immigrants. However, he stressed that Germany still needs skilled migrants to stay competitive and ensure economic growth and welfare.
Today, Germany has a three million-strong Turkish community, many of whom are children or grandchildren of workers who migrated in the 1960s as part of the aforementioned agreement. While thanking migrant communities for their contributions to Germany, Steinmeier also expressed regret over continued xenophobic attacks and hate crimes.
"I am appalled that people with different skin colour, language or religion are today still the target of hatred and hate campaigns," he said, warning that far-right propaganda online often leads to violence. "These are not just words… It is like a poison… This poison makes some people believe that they are representing the people, and they are allowed to humiliate, threaten, hunt down and even murder other people."
Steinmeier said Germany still remembers the victims of far-right terror, Turkish immigrants killed by the neo-Nazi terror group NSU and others who died in arson attacks in Moelln and Solingen.
"But we are not powerless. It is the duty of the state to protect all people," he told the audience, which included representatives of migrant communities. "Xenophobia is hatred of people. And we will never tolerate this hatred in Germany."