Berlin: Germany`s cabinet on Wednesday agreed
new draft laws against forced marriages and tough measures
against immigrants who fail to integrate into society, amid a
fierce debate about immigration in the country.
Forcing someone into marriage will now be considered a
criminal act in itself, punishable by up to five years in
prison, under the legislation drawn up by Chancellor Angela
Previously, forced marriage had been considered under
the law as a particularly severe form of coercion.
The new legislation also aims to make it easier for
women taken abroad for a forced marriage to return to Germany.
"Forced marriage is a problem in Germany that should
be taken seriously and which is increasingly in the public
eye," said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere in a
The cabinet will also seek to enforce action against
immigrants in Germany who do not follow so-called "integration
courses" to help them adapt to life in the country.
De Maiziere has estimated this affects around 10 to 15
percent of immigrants in Germany.
Authorities will be obliged to check whether
immigrants have followed such a course before considering an
application to extend their stay in Germany. Refusal to follow
courses could result in applications being rejected.
The move came amid a ferocious debate in Germany about
immigration and the country`s "multi-cultural" society.
The debate was fuelled by Thilo Sarrazin, a central
banker who said Germany was being made "more stupid" by
immigrants, and then further inflamed by Merkel who judged
multiculturalism had totally failed.
The popularity of a book by Sarrazin and a recent
study showing strong anti-foreigner sentiment have raised
fears about a right-wing populist attracting significant
support, although no such figure has yet emerged.
There are also concerns that a lack of integration
of Germany`s four million Muslims was helping create homegrown