10 Pages, Grade: 1,3
1. Violent crimes committed by young men of foreign origins
2. Reasons for violent behavior by young men of foreign origins
3. Recommendations for an improvement in the situation
4. A process of rethinking instead of more severe punishment
In the 1960s the Federal Republic of Germany signed contracts with Turkey and other countries to send workers, mostly from rural areas, to support the booming industrial economy (The German Economic Miracle). It was clear for the German government and the foreign workers that they would stay only for a limited time. Because companies needed the so called “Gastarbeiter” frequently for a fairly long time, limited work visas were extended or even turned into unlimited permissions. Nevertheless there was not really the intention by the German governments to integrate them into the society neither there was a real intention by the foreigners to integrate themselves. Later many of them left the country but a lot of especially Turkish people chose to stay. After the reunification with the German Democratic Republic in 1991 and in the following years the economical situation for low-skilled workers became worse. A large part of industrial production was shifted abroad, there was a surplus of men power and the new emerged service sector could not compensate it. Due to wars also massive waves of refugees from e.g. former Yugoslavian countries as well as Arabian countries like Lebanon and Palestine arrived Germany. 1 2
Nowadays, as discussed in the course Political Economy and Social Structures of Modern Societies at the Berlin School of Economics in the winter semester 2007/ 2008, Germany is a country of immigration which faces the challenges but also chances of a multicultural society. Unfortunately many foreign families are dependent on public transfer payments and therefore in poor social and economical situations because the often low-skilled heads of the family do not have jobs or are for legal reasons not allowed to work. People who are living under difficult conditions with no prospect for a positive change are likely to become criminals. Especially male teenagers and young men with migrant backgrounds (between 14-25 years) are in larger German cities more likely to be intensive culprits and commit robberies, dangerous/ hard body violence, sexual abuses as well as rapes than their German counterparts. Furthermore a number of unrecorded cases exists because it is known that there is a different behavior in reporting crimes by Germans than by strangers. Besides there is no statistical differentiation between native Germans and foreigners who were admitted to citizenship which means that the figures are probably much higher and alarming. 3 Therefore juvenile delinquency is an important issue for Germany which has been discussed in the public dispute for many years. The scandal about the “Rütli-Hauptschule” in Berlin (2006), where tutors refused to give lessons because they felt threatened by pupils, was probably just the tip of the iceberg but led together with other scandals again to a debate to find solutions for this problem. 4
During the election campaign in the Bundesland (Federal State) Hessen Roland Koch, politician of the German Christian Democratic Party, named a resolution. He proposed that young criminals, so particularly young males with migrant backgrounds, should be more severe punished. Young criminals between 18-21 years should be treated like adults, the maximum prison sentence for young people should be increased from 10 to 15 years and it should be possible to deport foreigners from Germany if they were sentenced to a one year imprisonment. 5 6 Although it perhaps was a statement to catch votes during the election campaign even so it could be a solution for the problem. But is this the only and above all the best solution? The author of this essay has been following the discussion and was beside solution interested in having a look behind the various reasons for their bearing to get committed to crimes. For that Berlin, the capital of Germany, was a very good example because it is one of the most cultural diverse cities in Germany and has got a high crime rate among young males with foreign origins. In addition the “Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt” assigned between 2005 and 2007 a task force consisting of scientists, members of the police, public services and representatives of migrant organizations to examine the issue in detail as well as to work out recommendations for a possible solution. 7
The aim of this essay is to state reasons for their behavior and to compare the suggestion by Roland Koch with the suggestions of the task force for an improvement in the situation.
Berlin is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Germany and has a high youth crime rate. Teenagers and young adults with Turkish, Kurdish, Lebanese, former Yugoslavian and unknown or unsure (often Palestinian) nationalities are much more likely to be criminals than their German counterparts. 8 Although young women are often in similar social and economical situations they are not as often as young men committed to violent crimes. This leads to the questions why especially young males with migrant backgrounds become culprits. 9 Cultural, social, economical, legal status caused and personal factors can be taken into consideration for their more aggressive and violent behavior.
First of all the puberty can be a difficult period for all male teenagers because their bodies are often developing much faster than they are maturing mentally. During this time they also try out various things to find out who they are. It is for example often ordinary for boys to measure their strengths by doing sport activities and competitions but also by brawls among themselves. Compared to German especially foreign teenagers are more likely to exaggerate this and also to use violence instead of verbal discussions to solve conflicts in general.
One reason for this may be the traditional role model in their cultural and/ or religious circles. Even nowadays their communities often expect men to be dominant, to care for the maintenance of their families and to protect them (also by using violence if necessary) against others. In contrary women are expected to obey men as well as to take care of the children and the household. In accordance to this parents educate boys and girls differently to prepare them for their future roles within the family. Whereas boys are frequent allowed to do almost everything they want, girls have a lot of household duties and not as many privileges as boys. As mentioned before women should frequently obey men and if they don’t it is sometimes also legitimated that men force them by threatening to beat them and even to do it. If men within a family beat women (the mother, female children or other female relatives) to carry through their will, young males learn very early that they can assert themselves against others and particularly women by using violence. On the other hand it could also be the case that they were beaten within the family and that they experience violence as a normal form of nonverbal communication.
In other words it is possible that violence is, within their circles and/ or families, not as seen as such a bad thing. Violent behavior may also be sometimes necessary to express dominance, masculinity, the ability to protect a family and therefore to correspond to their traditional role-model. 10 11 12
Even though this common used stereotype of a lively and aggressive southerner macho might still exist, it is not a proper explanation because there are must be other factors while some of them behave violent and some not. It can be said that in a tendency a lot of the former Gastarbeiter were low-skilled, low-educated and had a low knowledge of the German language. When there were enough jobs for these kind of people they were able to take care of the maintenance of their families. It was also often no need to get higher education and to improve their language skills so that their education level remained nearly the same. As mentioned in the introduction, times have changed. Nowadays there are not as many jobs for low-skilled worker as there were in the past and this can be among other things a reason why many former foreign workers are unemployed in these days. Owing to the low-education-level and insufficient language skills of their parents also the children are likely to have similar problems. As a result around 55% of pupils with migrant backgrounds have language problems. 13
Another problem is that foreign families are often strongly connected with their cultural/ religious communities and that they are socially segregated which means that they often stay in districts with many other foreigners and just a few Germans. Because of this the parents and their children have big difficulties to learn the language and to integrate into the society because they may still be integrated in parallel societies in which it is not always necessary to speak German. Inadequate language skills can lead to bad school results, block access to higher education and limit job prospects. 14
Although the “Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz” was passed in 2006 there may also be still a structural discrimination in kindergartens, schools, universities, on the labour market as well as during leisure time. A lot of foreigners might experienced that other pupils got better marks although their results were quite similar and that teachers do not properly support children with language problems. Furthermore they might experienced that their families did not get the desired accommodation, that they were refused to enter night clubs, that they did not get the chance to serve apprenticeships or to show their capacities by carrying out a job because they are foreigners. 15
1 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 14
2 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 83-88
3 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 19-23
4 cf. Süddeutsche (2007)
5 cf. Spiegel Online (2008a)
6 cf. Spiegel Online (2008b)
7 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 8-11
8 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 19-23
9 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 24-27
10 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 12-18
11 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 37-49
12 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 24-27
13 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 28-36
14 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 50-55
15 cf. Landeskommission Berlin gegen Gewalt (2007), p. 55-56
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