German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday expressed regret over the racist attitudes and acts of violence targeting the country’s Turkish community.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin following a video conference meeting with representatives of major ethnic groups and immigrant organizations, Merkel reaffirmed her government’s commitment to combat discrimination and racism.

“We have experienced very bad incidents in recent years, like the NSU [National Socialist Underground] murders and the Hanau attack,” Merkel said, referring to major deadly terrorist attacks by far-right extremists.

“After all these, it’s really difficult for a person of Turkish origin to believe that they are welcome here, that they have equal chances,” she said.

Merkel underlined that Germany views the Turkish community as an integral part of society and that the government would step up programs to combat discrimination and prejudice, while also ensuring equal opportunity for people with migrant backgrounds in all areas of social life.

She said that when Turkey and Germany signed a labor force agreement 60 years ago, this also opened a new page in German history, as Turkish “guest workers,” who came to boost Germany’s economy, also created a new community .

“We’re not calling them guest workers anymore. They have become our fellow countrymen. Many of them have also become German citizens,” she added.

Germany has a three million-strong Turkish community, many of whom are second- and third-generation German-born citizens whose grandparents moved to the country as “guest workers” during the 1960s.

The country has witnessed growing racism in recent years fueled by far-right parties, which have exploited fears over the refugee crisis and terrorism.

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