What do Bulgarians think of Romanians?

Immigration from Romania and BulgariaHardly a trace of the welcoming culture

In front of a café around the corner from the Nordmarkt in Dortmund: around a dozen men stand together in small groups. Most of them come from Romania - and some are waiting for work, says Vassili Marin.

"They take on all kinds of jobs, haul heavy things, for example cupboards. For 40 or 50 euros a day. The Turks come over and distribute work."

Vassili Marin himself is also a casual worker. He worked on the construction site as a bodyguard. He'll take on any job.

Without a job in Germany, that means for citizens from other EU countries - no Hartz IV, no social assistance, no money.

Many unemployed people are still not going back

According to EU rules, new immigrants can stay in another member state for up to six months to look for work. After that, they have no right to stay unless there is a concrete prospect of finding a job. But many still do not go back because the situation at home is also bad. How big this group is can hardly be estimated. In any case, it does not appear in the Dortmund unemployment statistics.

With 53,000 inhabitants and a population density of 36.7 inhabitants per hectare, Dortmund's northern city is the largest and most densely populated area of ​​old buildings in the Ruhr area. (imago / Ralph Lueger)

Around 9,000 Bulgarians and Romanians currently live in Dortmund, most of them in the Nordstadt area. An enormous challenge for an already disadvantaged district, says the Dortmund social affairs officer, Birgit Zoerner. This became apparent as early as 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU.

"In the inner city north area we have forty-nine times the number of people from Romania and Bulgaria. You can imagine that this is a significant change in a neighborhood."

Scrap real estate in a database

In the quarter, which has been characterized by immigration for decades, the problems worsened, for example with the so-called junk properties:

Fraudulent landlords housed large families in apartments that were far too small, with broken windows and doors, and often without running water. For the neighbors, a sometimes extreme exposure to noise and piles of rubbish on the street.

Some of these houses in Duisburg-Marxloh are so-called scrap properties (picture alliance / Roland Weihrauch / dpa)

The city took countermeasures: the housing office had run-down houses evacuated, and properties in need of renovation were entered into a database. Today the problem is largely under control, says Susanne Linnebach, head of Dortmund's urban renewal.

"They haven't disappeared yet, but they are absolutely reduced and you have a knowledge of the problematic properties. And that of course makes the process easier. If I know where my problems are, then I can do something."

Network for EU immigrants with social problems

In addition, a network has been set up in Dortmund to specifically support EU immigrants with social problems, from providing health care for people without health insurance cover to help with finding accommodation and special language courses for German at work.

At the center of the offers of help is the advice center for EU emigrants "Welcome Europe", a joint project of Diakonisches Werk and Caritas. Johanna Smith is one of the leaders.

"So the challenges are very diverse. Many people who come to us are uneducated. That means that we try to explain the system in Germany through intensive, very small-step work and also to find employers who are also sensitive to people's problems are."

Educators and children in a day care center in Dortmund (Imago)

Only 10 percent have vocational training

Only a little more than ten percent of Bulgarian and Romanian job seekers have completed vocational training. Many people who come to Dortmund do not even have a school leaving certificate.

The situation of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants is similar in other structurally weak cities in the Ruhr area, especially in Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen.

"A warm welcome for Bulgarians and Romanians, it looks different ..."

CSU warned against immigration into the social systems

Review: Shortly before the New Year of 2014, a violent political dispute broke out over immigration from Bulgaria and Romania. When full freedom of movement came into force in January, penniless people from both countries would immigrate to the social systems in large numbers, feared the CSU in particular and raised the mood with the slogan: "If you cheat, you fly". Andreas Scheuer, then CSU General Secretary:

"The CSU feels it is unfair that people from other EU countries come to us and can access our national social security funds, a solidarity fund that is guaranteed by German contributors."

On the question of whether EU citizens in Germany are entitled to social benefits, two fundamental decisions were pending at the European Court of Justice.

Do not want "freedom of movement in the social systems"

In November 2014, the judgments were passed in the Dano and Alimanovic cases: Citizens from other EU countries who have never worked in Germany are therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits, no Hartz IV.

Gerd Landsberg, General Manager of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, was relieved:

"We welcome the judgment of the European Court of Justice. This is a very important building block for less social tourism in Europe. And it is also an important signal that we want freedom of movement, but not freedom of movement in the social systems."

Municipalities feared new billions in burdens

Another judgment, however, shocked the cities and municipalities: The Federal Social Court ruled in December 2015 that destitute EU citizens can receive social assistance in case of doubt. The municipalities feared new billions in burdens.

Immigrants in Duisburg (imago)

In response to this, the then Federal Minister of Social Affairs, Andrea Nahles, introduced a new law. Accordingly, new immigrants from the EU in Germany have no right to social assistance for five years. If you are in need, you can only apply for a bridging allowance in order to be able to provide yourself with food, for example. And they get a little money to return to their countries of origin.

The principle: without work, no social benefits for EU immigrants. Andrea Nahles put it this way:

"I simply expect that employment here is the basis for integration, also on the basis of freedom of movement."

Bulgaria - "There was no social support there"

Consultation hour at "Willkommen Europa", the contact point for EU migrants in the north of Dortmund. Consultant Elena Genova helps a customer fill out a job center application.

Katsche Emurua comes from a small town in Bulgaria. Her husband works a few hours a week on call for a bakery. Because he only earns 390 euros, the family receives so-called supplementary benefits. The money must be re-applied for regularly at the job center. And because she doesn't understand German, she comes to the counseling center.

"We both worked in Bulgaria. But the money wasn't enough, even though we didn't have a child back then. Now we have little to live again, but we feel better than in Bulgaria. There was no social support and the costs, for rent and gas, for example, were very high. "

Many with a Roma background in Dortmund's northern part of the city

Trouble with the job center, housing shortages, late payment reminders - Elena Genova is faced with all sorts of problems today. A typical day, says the consultant, who herself comes from Bulgaria.

"It's normal, the cases are, as always, very complicated. You have to do a lot of research until you find out why it happened or to grasp the context."

The difficult situation of the customers of "Willkommen Europa" often has to do with the discrimination in their country of origin. In the northern part of Dortmund there are many immigrants from Stilipinovo, a district of Plovdiv, in which mainly people with a Roma background live.

Finding a permanent job is difficult

Sebastian Kurtenbach, urban sociologist at the Münster University of Applied Sciences, has examined the relationships between the two districts. The northern city is a typical arrival quarter for the people from Stilipinovo.

"It is a long-term resident population with a migration background, which practically acts as a bridgehead to the region of origin, which gives you initial orientation: Why are the shops here on Sundays? Where can you apply for child benefit? Where is the social worker who can help you ? "

Nevertheless, it is often difficult for immigrants from the Roma district to find a permanent job.

Child benefit - benefit also for EU migrants without a job

Sinti and Roma of Eastern European origin in Duisburg (imago)

The only social benefit that EU migrants without a job are entitled to is child benefit. Part of it goes to children who do not live in Germany at all, but who stayed at home. Child benefit payments to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania alone rose by ten percent between the end of 2017 and mid-2018.

The federal government has long wanted to adjust the amount of child benefit to the cost of living in the other member state. A hopeless initiative, says Rolf Schmachtenberg, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs. Most EU countries see no reason to change anything in relation to the receipt of child benefit.

"I think that we now have to take note that we are quite isolated with this position in the EU. Neither our neighboring country France, which is also a large and rich country, nor Luxembourg, nor Belgium support this. "

German economy benefits massively from immigration

The EU Commission is opposed to plans such as reducing child benefits for employees from other member states. For Social Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, this would be a clear violation of the principle of equal treatment.

"The basic rule in the European Union is that if someone works in another member state, pays taxes and social security contributions as much as the local people, he or she has a right to the same social benefits."

In fact, the German economy benefits massively from immigration from other EU countries - especially from Bulgaria and Romania.

Not all immigrants will be able to cope on their own, according to the experience of counselor Elena Genova. (picture alliance / Wolfgang Kumm)

Employment rate high among Bulgarians and Romanians

Appointment in Nuremberg, at the Institute for Employment Research. Ehsan Vallizadeh works on migration issues at the IAB. Almost a million people from Bulgaria and Romania now work in Germany. And immigration from the so-called EU2 countries is growing particularly quickly. All in all, the immigrants are surprisingly successful in gaining a foothold in the German labor market.

"This increase is actually unique. And if you look at these figures, then the migrants from Bulgaria and Romania ... actually belong to the best groups of people integrated into the German labor market."

This can be seen from the EU2 employment rate: in 2014 it was 35 percent nationwide; At 64 percent, the proportion of Bulgarians and Romanians with jobs is currently almost twice as high.

In construction, catering and warehousing

However, most of the EU2 migrants are currently employed in low-skilled jobs. 55 percent of Bulgarians and Romanians work in auxiliary activities: in construction, in gastronomy, in warehousing.

Tour through the northern part of the city with Elena Genova from "Willkommen Europa". The employees of the advice center are regularly out and about in the district to draw the attention of people from the target group to the advice on offer and to get a feel for what's going on on the street.

No time for competence assessment tests

On the square in front of a church, Elena Genova is approached by a man. It can be felt that he is under great pressure. He recently lost his job as a packer in a supermarket. Now he wants to find new work quickly. Elena Genova hands him the flyer about the "Welcome Europe" service, but he waves it away.

He knows the offer, says Dimiter Pauno, but things are going too slowly at the counseling center and he has no time for the compulsory competence assessment tests.

"I have to work, have to work."

His wife and four children are standing next to him. The family moved to Germany three years ago. He has already worked in various jobs and obtained a forklift driver's license. But now money is running out.

"If I can't find anything in the foreseeable future, I'll leave here, to another city. Then maybe I'll go to England or Italy or France."

Big criminals try to exploit the unskilled

While we are talking to the family, a man is watching us. Elena Genova suspects one of the self-appointed advisors who offer support to their compatriots and take a lot of money from them.

"He didn't want us to enlighten the family, I saw that straight away. But because you were there too, he couldn't defend himself."

The microphone apparently had a deterrent effect on the man.

Raid against alleged human smugglers in North Rhine-Westphalia (dpa-Bildfunk / Paul Zinken)

Low-skilled immigrants, in particular, often fall into the hands of petty traders like this man, or they become victims of major criminals. Organized smuggling gangs lure poor people from Bulgaria and Romania to Germany in a targeted manner, put them in overpriced apartments, seemingly employ them in marginal jobs and cash in on top-up services from the job center.

More and more cities are tracking the abuse

The city of Dortmund does not want to tolerate such criminal business models under any circumstances, says Birgit Zoerner, head of the social affairs department.

"That means we always have to look at everything and have to make it clear that here in Dortmund you have a chance, if you come because you are looking for a perspective, then we will support you too. People who try to exploit others here don't have a nice life here. And we also notice it from the fact that the numbers are increasing in other cities and not in ours anymore. "

In addition to Dortmund, more and more cities are consistently following the abuse, praises Ina Scharrenbach, the NRW minister responsible for migration:

"We then act repressively and say that we do not tolerate certain things. That means that you look, that you say that there is sometimes abuse here. Then that is an expression of this demanding and promoting."

Plea for more rigorous exit orders

The consistent fight against the migration business does nothing to change the precarious situation of many immigrants.

Minister Scharrenbach from the CDU advocates a more rigorous approach: If there is no right of residence under EU rules - i.e. migrants have not found a job after six months - the immigration authorities would have to order the emigration.

"Admittedly, little use is made of this, but the right exists."

EU immigrants often have to pay for language courses themselves

The Dortmund social affairs officer sees things differently. Birgit Zoerner is convinced that tough action by the immigration authorities will not change the problem.

"People will stay here or they will travel out and back in for ten minutes. I have to say: OK, if it is the case that a large part of the people want to stay here and are looking for a perspective, then there is no reasonable one at all Alternative to integration. "

If you want to get a better job, you have to learn German. But EU immigrants often have to pay for language courses themselves. What is normal for refugees - the promotion of language acquisition - is not a standard offer for EU immigrants.

City Association calls for help for affected cities

Duisburg-Marxloh: The sign "Here we are at home" defies the social misery. (picture alliance / dpa / Maja Hiti)

This is exactly what the affected communities are now demanding. Just in time for the fifth anniversary of full freedom of movement for Bulgaria and Romania, the German Association of Cities went on the offensive. The goal according to a city council resolution ...

(Quote) "... to put the topic back on the national political agenda and to develop aid structures for the cities concerned."

The federal government did far too little to support the affected communities. The consequences of poverty immigration can only be dealt with with uniform and permanent structures. The networks in the cities have so far consisted of projects that are mostly limited in time.

Break the vicious circle

Many people who need qualifications have a fundamental problem: because they have to earn money, they have no time for further training courses and so remain dependent on low-paying odd jobs.

This vicious circle needs to be broken, says the Dortmund social affairs officer.

"From our point of view it would be urgently necessary that qualification measures could also be combined with money acquisition. We have the consideration of how this can work. And where we get money from the state or the federal government to implement such programs, it works That too. But in that sense these are not standard offers. That means we always have to somehow strip these things together. "

National standard help required

Rolf Schmachtenberg, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, also sees areas where support for disadvantaged immigrants could be improved. On the other hand, there are already many projects in the cities that are working successfully on precisely this.

"That relates to the promotion of labor market integration, which the cities are discussing. I'm with them too. We have the problem with the group that doesn't work at all and that doesn't receive any benefits from the job center and therefore from the job center are not supported at first. That is basically the most difficult group. "

The City Council demands: EU immigrants looking for a job need help from the Federal Employment Agency, according to a nationwide standard. This is the only way to ensure access to language courses and qualifications everywhere.

Dealing with it will remain a challenge

More initiative to make immigrants fit for the job market could pay off for Germany, says EU Social Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.

"There are many vacancies in Germany and a shrinking local population. If there are Europeans who want to live here, it is a good policy to help them find a job and thus reduce the number of vacancies and to strengthen the economy. "

But there is apparently also a group of immigrants who will not be able to gain a permanent foothold in the German labor market because of insufficient education or strong cultural differences.

As much help as the Dortmund advice center "Willkommen, Europa" provides, not all customers will be able to cope on their own, according to the experience of consultant Elena Genova.

"There are, on the other hand, people who would still depend on our help. I can't imagine any other way."

Dealing with them will remain a challenge.