The job centers have sent around 234,300 people to the integration course since the beginning of 2023. Almost two thirds of them – around 154,000 women and men – were war refugees from Ukraine.

This emerges from preliminary data from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) for the period between the beginning of January 2023 and the end of January 2024, which is available to the German Press Agency. In 2022, a total of around 340,000 new participants of different nationalities were admitted or required to take a course.

The reason for the high increase in the number of participants was the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022 and the subsequent refugee movement.

Citizens’ benefit recipients can be required to participate

In a general integration course there are six language course sections and an orientation part, totaling 700 teaching hours. In January of this year alone, according to a spokesman, the job centers issued a total of almost 18,000 commitments and legally non-binding approvals to take part in an integration course.

In contrast to asylum seekers who, after their arrival in Germany, are initially only entitled to care based on the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act, refugees from Ukraine receive citizen’s benefit from the start and are looked after by the job centers. In principle, you can be required to take part in an integration course if you do not have sufficient language skills for a professional activity and it is reasonable for you to do so.

The deputy chairwoman of the Union parliamentary group, Andrea Lindholz, considers citizens’ money to be counterproductive in general and also with regard to integration due to the reduced sanction options associated with the change in the law on January 1, 2023. “Employees from the Federal Employment Agency recently told me at an on-site visit that they now lack any means of encouraging people to go to work or complete an integration course,” the CSU politician told the dpa.

Federal Agency: Reduction in benefits possible if non-participation

When asked, a spokeswoman for the headquarters of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) in Nuremberg said that if a person entitled to benefits is asked to take part in an integration course and does not comply with the binding obligations, the reasons for this breach of obligation must first be heard.

For the first breach of duty, a reduction in benefits amounting to 10 percent of the relevant standard requirement is provided for one month. If there is a further breach of duty, it is said to be 20 percent for two months. If this happens again, 30 percent could be reduced for three months. The spokeswoman also pointed out that since the introduction of citizens’ money in the social security code there is no longer any talk of “sanctions” but of “reductions in benefits”.

Union politician suggests new definition for reasonable work

“Citizens’ money is a catastrophe,” said Lindholz. The sanction options were “practically completely lost” as a result of the reform. In addition, because the expected inflation is anticipated, the amount of citizens’ benefit increases faster than the wages and salaries of employees, for which there is always a delay.

“In my opinion, the employees in the job centers are often overworked and totally frustrated,” reported the CSU politician. She sees a great need for reform when it comes to citizens’ money, and not just because it represents a false incentive for migration. “The question of what job you have to accept also needs to be examined.”

According to a spokesman, the BA does not separately record the number of cases in which a reduction in performance pronounced by the job center is due to the refusal to take part in an integration course. The Bamf is responsible for conducting integration courses.

In January 2024, around 519,000 employable people from Ukraine were registered with the Federal Employment Agency. A good 206,400 of them were registered as unemployed. According to statistics, 124,467 Ukrainian citizens took part in an integration course in January.