Welcoming refugees is not only a matter of asylum procedures or providing the international protection needed, it is also a matter of helping people find a place in our society. Integration can also bring so many cultural and economic benefits to host countries. There's many inspirational refugee stories all across Europe. It might involve cricketers in France, interpreters in Germany or award winning photographers in Italy. The EU is built on unity through diversity, but it's up to Member States to decide whether to allow refugees into their countries.
The demography shows us that we are a continent where we will need people to come and to work and to settle here in order to maintain the level of our welfare systems all over. The refugees that arrive here in Germany have to adapt. They come from a totally different culture, and they don't know how things are here. At the beginning when I came here, it was very difficult, because I couldn't speak French. The trainers in the youth centre really helped me, and my school friends helped too. German people think: the refugees have to get a job. But from my own experience, I've always noticed that as a refugee you have to be twice as good... compared to a German. Sometimes that is not so simple, but I managed it anyway. At a moment when many EU Member States are turning away from the European motto of "united in diversity", it's important to remember the European values of hospitality and solidarity. A major effort also needs to be made for integration policies that will benefit not only the refugees, but the host countries as well. I had never thought that one day I would become a photographer, but when I went to the community centre, somebody gave me a disposable camera. He was still living in the Termini station and decided to start photographing the homeless people who were living with him in the streets. It became a real passion, and after a while one of his pictures "J'habite à Termini" won a prize and was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The most important value in life for me is to make a contribution, and to succeed in effectively changing something with your contribution. They are here to give their contribution to growth and prosperity for Europe, and that's why it's so essentially important that we open up every possibility for them to integrate into our societies. We can never, on the European level, legislate integration because it falls under the scope of subsidiarity, the national competences. But we can foster an atmosphere of integration, and that is your responsibility and mine. We have to share that. Abdullah is the best batsman on our team. He has a wonderful temperament and a fantastic smile. He's also one of the best success stories, because he works and he studies. That's exactly what we want to do: to involve the players in the cricket team and help them to really integrate in France. I would like to become a cricket champion for France. And we will win against everybody.