Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 November 2010
In the early 1980s, when Great Britain had witnessed violent confrontations between ethnic minorities and the police and a host of cities had seen their share of anti-immigrant mobilization, policy makers and academics in Germany grew concerned about the future integration of the country's immigrant population. By 1980, the country was home to 4.5 million non-Germans, mostly guest workers and their dependents, and it had now become apparent that the majority of these economic migrants would remain in Germany. As rising numbers of immigrants coincided with rising numbers of unemployed, the topic of immigration and immigrant integration began to gain national salience. Nevertheless, contemporary observers who compared developments in the two countries noted that the settlement of immigrants had proceeded much more peacefully in Germany. In comparison to Britain, one author points out, there had been no violent or nonviolent “open conflict on a larger scale” between immigrants and natives in Germany (Koch-Arzberger 1985, 3). A government-commissioned report on youth violence also concluded that “immigrant youth in Germany, in contrast to Great Britain, have not participated in…violent confrontations” with the police. Local anti-immigrant parties did not garner German voters' support either. Indeed, especially when placed in comparative perspective, the first decades of guest-worker settlement in Germany appear relatively peaceful; organized responses at the local level against the significant immigrant presence largely failed to gain momentum.