Interning at the Commissioner for Foreigners in Thuringia

Governmental administration is renowned for two things: excessive coffee drinking and the phrase “Audits! Look busy!” Having spent my last six weeks within the Commissioner for Foreigners in Thuringia, which fits into the Ministry for Social, Family and Health Affairs, I can provide a few more insights into this rumoured claim.

Indeed, the coffee machine was situated in my office which gave my colleagues enough excuses to come by for a discussion on life, love and politics whilst sipping on some fine Brazilian coffee. However, this also proved to be a golden opportunity to gain first-hand experience into the integration of foreigners into Thuringia and generally in Germany.

The Commissioner for Foreigners has an ombudsman’s role, meaning that they hold the federal government accountable to its Basic Law, in particular the anti-discrimination law:

“No one may be discriminated against because of their gender, origin, race, language, home country, beliefs, religious or political convictions” – (Grundgesetz Artikel 3 Absatz 3).

Working in this department illuminated many of the political and legal factors surrounding the migration to, and – more importantly – the integration of foreigners in, Germany. The combination of researching issues (such as migrant health), writing speeches (such as for the Thuringia Integration Prize), and “hand’s on” experience at a refugee home became the driving forces for me to write my thesis on a comparison of refugee law in Germany and Australia.

Now I am slowly weaning myself off the coffee – for which my body is very grateful – and I have a host of experiences and knowledge that gained during this time which will be valuable in my thesis, making this internship very much worthwhile.

by: Stefan Slooten (New Zealand/South Africa/Zimbabwe/The Netherlands)