Citizenship and Identity

3. The General Situation in Germany

3.1. The Migration of South Asians to Germany

The 50s and 60s, although a time of state-led recruitment of workers abroad have seen only few South Asians coming to Germany. Initially a few thousand young men, mainly from Bengal but also from other parts of India and Pakistan, came on their own initiative in order to find jobs or to study. They picked Germany because of its economic power, its good education facilities, its traditionally good relations with India and the fact that it was not a colonial power. Most of the young men who stayed in Germany for some time did not long remain in unskilled employments. Most aimed for higher educational qualifications and ended up in the upper sector of the labour market. Given that they had come individually, there were no well-developed South Asian communities in Germany and there was little regional separatism. The South Asians lived dispersed over the whole country and had much contact with Germans. Many of the migrants married German wives, some married in their countries of origin and brought their wives to Germany. Today as they are reaching their retirement age, most of their children are at universities, some have already founded families and establish themselves, like their parents, in the German middle class.

Some time after this first phase of migrants from South Asia, a second phase, quite different in nature, developed. In the late 60s and 70s, thousands of young Christian women from Kerala were recruited by hospitals as trainee or qualified nurses in order keep the health system working. As these migrants came in groups and were cared for by German institutions, soon a Malayali community developed catering for occupational, social and religious needs of the young women. After some years in Germany most had an arranged marriage in India or married one of the Malayali men who had migrated to Germany, thus establishing Malayali families in their host country and developing their community further. Most of the children are still in school, some are already at universities or in an apprenticeship, only a few have already established their own families. In contrast to the other second generation South Asians in Germany most young Malayalis have grown up in an Indian community, with their own societies and clubs, going to Indian Masses and special Malayali schools. Their parents are eager that their children will enter a higher professional status than themselves, displaying a strong preference for a career in medicine.

There are also other groups of South Asians in Germany, especially Sikh asylum seekers from Punjab, Ahmadi asylum seekers from Pakistan and Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. They all came from the 70s onwards and thus have younger family structures, with the members of the second generation still being rather small. Furthermore their life in Germany is strongly determined by their legal status as asylum seekers, making an analysis of their attitudes and identities a topic for itself. The following analysis will thus concentrate on what Desai (1993) calls the established South Asians.



Urmila Goel, / english or Desis in Deutschland/ Zweite Generation /Citizenship 1998/2004