The number of ethnic Germans born abroad who immigrated to their ancestral homeland in 2003 was much lower than the previous year, and this downward trend is expected to continue, according to the German government.

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In the years to come, even fewer Aussiedler are expected to settle in Germany, according to Welt. He attributed the drop in numbers mainly to Germany's policy of helping to improve conditions for Aussiedler in their countries of origin. The policy has "strengthened the Aussiedlers' will to stay" in the land of their birth rather than move to Germany, Welt said.

Discouraging the continued massive "return" of Aussiedler—now a central pillar of Germany's migration policy—involves vocational training, loans, language training, the establishment of cultural institutions and hospitals, and work among youth in communities of origin.

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Compared to other immigrants, Aussiedler enjoy certain privileges that are believed to foster their integration into society and the labor market. These privileges include assistance with language training, employment, and welfare. Nevertheless, Aussiedler, especially those who came during the 1990s, continue to face severe economic and social integration problems.

While the total number of immigrating Aussiedler and their dependents has decreased, Welt said, integration problems have increased. He attributed this, in part, to low German language skills among those admitted under the Aussiedler program, particularly among the dependents who now make up the majority of the flow.

In 2003, ethnic Germans made up approximately 20 percent of the immigrants admitted under the Aussiedler quota. The remaining 80 percent was made up of their dependent family members. This is in sharp contrast with 1993, when ethnic Germans made up approximately 75 percent of this flow, with the rest composed of family members.

Sufficient knowledge of German is a necessary precondition for social and vocational integration, Welt said, pointing to the situation of juvenile Aussiedler. The commissioner said these youths were "vulnerable to criminal activities and drug abuse, not least because they fail at school because they lack knowledge of German and they had to leave their country of origin and friends with their parents, against their will."

Welt called for a new immigration law that would address such concerns and require dependents to pass a test to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of German before they would be admitted to Germany.

Welt, a member of the ruling Social Democrats, urged the opposition Christian Democrats "to give a green light" to an immigration law that would tackle these issues.

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