EU nationals ask the candidates: 7. Communication

Question: Many of the questions have been about communication.  How can the foreigners here be better informed?  I would claim, that many foreigners do not read a newspaper, in particular because it is not in their native language.

One example for this is the call for candidates for the Ausländerbeirat election.  This went out as a classic press release to the newspapers, but there were no information about it in their display cabinet outside the town hall.

Hans-Georg Brum (SPD) answered:

I imagine it is going to be difficult to reach the people who are new and do not know Oberursel.  I believe that those who are interested will find a way, if they have a sufficient amount of German or English.  The problem is, that the foreign residents first have to warm up to the town because they often do not know the circumstances here.  If we go abroad, then we often see things differently to those who live in or know the town well in which we are in.

For that reason I do not know at the moment, but if we were, for example, to produce information sheets in different languages, would that ever reach them?  I think it would be sensible to regularly publish information in different languages (as a notice, letter or on the internet), but I can also envisage bringing people together and communicating verbally, because the questions that come up can often be answered better.

It would make sense to have a contact person for each nationality with a certain number of people living here.  We have done this partially in the town’s administration, so we have people who speak good French, Turkish and English and some come from the relevant lands as well.  I could envisage something like that.  It is in a way like the concept of the “Integration pilots”.  We are a model region for the Kreis for integration and there are people who help newcomers in practical ways of everyday life.  This is a concept throughout the Land (Hessen) and was tested in Weißkirchen as far as I know.  There is also a difference between speaking to foreigners who are financially well off and very individual, as opposed to those who have it more difficult and who often come in groups and want their information in that way.

Thorsten Schorr (CDU) answered:

As part of my election campaign I have made had some very positive experience with targeted letters.  That means, that I have written a personally addressed letter to all votes above a certain age, regardless of German or Foreigner.  Before there are critical questions: I have of course purchased the addresses legally.

I have had a lot of positive feedback from these letters.  That would be one option, to develop a standard letter, translate this into the relevant languages and then send it to all of those eligible to vote for the Ausländerbeirat.

Tappenden: That fits in with my example, but what about after the election in November. How can one avoid questions and inform at the same time?  There is an e-mail newsletter (in German), but how can the foreigners be reached?

Schorr: For example if we could find “Migration pilots”, then the translated newsletter could be sent by e-mail.  Then we could do a mailing for the Ausländerbeirat election to inform and motivate the voters.

During the registration at the Einwohnerbüro we could ask if new residents are interested in having regular information and if they want to give us their e-mail address.

Then I am convinced, that ethnic groups meet somewhere.  One could try and get in contact with them.  For example, when the Italian community has a church service, what is wrong with placing a notice in Italian for particularly important things?

If one thinks about it for a while, then there are bound to be a few ideas, but we must not be so naive as to believe that everyone is interested in politics and would be active in the Ausländerbeirat.  That is simply not the case.  In the German population it is also only a small portion that is politically active.  In Oberursel with 45,000 residents there are only several hundred that are organised on party or political lines.

Tappenden: So the forum on Facebook has more members?

Schorr: You see.  Not transfer that to the people with a migratory background.  If we have 18% or 20% of people being foreigners, then that makes around 9,000 people in Oberursel with a migratory background.  2% of those is around 180 who are interested in politics and the Ausländerbeirat.  That is approximately the turnout for the Ausländerbeirat election.  If we want to reach our fellow citizens with a migratory background then we must not just concentrate on the Ausländerbeirat.  We have to ask ourselves, how we are going to speak to the 98% who are not interested in the Ausländerbeirat?  And that is probably only going to succeed through their native language, because not all of them speak German.

Click here to read this article in French


About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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