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Migrant Organizations: Size, Structures, and Significance

Migrant Organizations: Size, Structures, and Significance

People with similar conceptions of life or shared interests organize themselves in various ways into associations. This is also true of migrants who form organizations because of their common cultural, political, economic or social interests and values. Roughly one-fifth of the German population has a so-called migration background which means that they can point to their own experiences with migration or to that of their parents’ generation. Accordingly, there is a broad spectrum of migrant organizations; estimates are that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 such associations in the country. Their role in the social integration of individuals and in the support of migrants’ interests and participation has been the subject of some controversy over the question of whether migrant organizations tend to promote or hinder the integration of people with a migration background.

The first section introduces the concept of migrant organizations. The next section examines their distribution and activity structure in Germany, and the following discusses the significance of migrant self-organizations for processes of social participation on the basis of the current state of social scientific research. A short summary concludes this policy brief.

Individuals with a migration background

Individuals with a migration background are "all immigrants to the present territory of the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949, as well as all foreigners born in Germany and all individuals born as Germans in Germany with a least one immigrant parent or one parent born as a foreigner in Germany" (Statistisches Bundesamt 2012: 6, transl. by the author). As of 2011, there were 16 million individuals with a migration background living in Germany, representing 19.5 percent of the population (Ibid.: 7). Although the concept is not uncontroversial, it is used here for lack of a consensual alternative to apply to those people who as a result of their own or their parents' migration experiences beyond nation-state borders are able, on the one hand, to mobilize particular abilities and competencies (for example multilingualism, knowledge of and understanding for different cultures) but on the other are also confronted with special challenges in making their claims to social participation heard.