Erdogan warns against Turkish ghettos in Germany

Türkiye Materials 8 February 2008 17:14 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a strong warning Friday against the "ghettoization" of Germany's large Turkish community during a discussion with German and Turkish pupils.

He was speaking after a weekend fire in the south-western city of Ludwigshafen in which nine members of an extended Turkish family died in a blaze that might have been started deliberately.

Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the pupils, observed a minute of silence for the victims ahead of the discussion round on the themes of integration and education.

The fire in a century-old building had been "a terrible incident that badly shook us in Germany," Merkel said.

Erdogan placed a wreath at the scene of the tragedy on Thursday and called for moderation in view of arson claims.

The fire has revived memories of the deaths of five Turks in the city of Solingen in 1993 after a fire had been deliberately started in their home. The previous year three Turkish women were killed in another arson attack.

Merkel and Erdogan answered questions from the pupils on the difficulties young Turks faced in integrating into German society and the discrimination they encountered.

"One of the biggest dangers is ghettoization," Erdogan said in reference to the tendency of Turks to congregate in certain, usually downmarket, areas in German cities.

"Ghettoization has to be avoided. It is caused by fear. If we overcome fear we can get rid of ghettoization," the Turkish premier said.

In addition to seeking a full investigation into the blaze, Erdogan was set to lobby Merkel to drop new immigration laws that require Turkish immigrants to undergo German language tests.

Turkish officials say the new laws are discriminatory as they exempt many nationalities but not Turks.

Around 2.4 million Turks live in Germany, 1.7 million of whom have Turkish nationality. Berlin alone has a Turkish community of some 126,000.

Erdogan was also expected to push for greater action by the German authorities on activities by groups linked with the separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

Following his talks with Merkel, Erdogan is due to travel to Munich where he will address a major international security conference on Saturday.