Germany's Refugee Intake

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5th Feb 2019 International Relations Reference this

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Germany’s important model in aiding refugees but limitations arise

Introduction

A streamline of images appeared on the television screen located in the living room of a German household. Various colors from the news segment on Syrian refugees reflected on the faces of the viewers. The topic of refugees was a highly discussed one throughout Europe. Many of the refugees consisted of Syrians as a result of the Syria crisis that began in 2011. Germany has been one of the most prominent figures as their participation in assisting refugees has been high. Germany receives the highest number of refugees, compared to other countries in the world, with the United States, who is considerably larger, coming in second (Marks, 2018). Germany has provided a lot of assistance towards refugees as there are programs, such as German language program and designated housings as a part of local integration. It is important to note that “Germany’s refugee policy is an important model” (Nanette, 2016); however, there are implications that arise as there may be limitations on how far the generosity of one country can go. For example, as new people arrive in a country, the competition for markets such as the ones for jobs, increases significantly and this may create narrower job opportunities for current German citizens. As a result, several questions come up, with one relating to if it is okay to put the needs of others before citizens of the host country in any particular situation. Germany has been a good model of a country wanting to aid refugees and the events occurring in the country surrounding refugee issues but it is also an unfortunate term of being generous and welcoming and it is restrictive at the national level.

Migrant Crisis in Europe

In the year of 2015, about more than one million people, including “refugees, displaced persons and other migrants” (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, 2018). have arrived in Europe, with hopes of a better life because of constant conflicts or few opportunities in their home country. These migrants arrive in Europe, typically after strenuous and draining journeys by land or sea and upon arrival, they often need help with basic human needs such as “clean water, health care, emergency shelter and legal”. This large increase in number also affects countries that are part of the transit route such as “Turkey, Greece and Libya” as they receive large amounts of people at a period of time that exceeds their capacity.

The top countries in which persons who are applying for asylum Europe are from Syria (360,000), Afghanistan (170,000) and Iraq (120,000). The European country that had acquired the most asylum applications was Germany, a total of 476,000 in 2017. There are problems with the responsibilities shared by each country in Europe. This is because there are some countries in which more migrants arrive to, such as Greece, Italy and Hungary and this results in them taking in more responsibilities and using their resources. European countries have certain quotas established for the amounts of migrants that they can take from the transit countries such as Greece and Italy. Germany has the highest quota at 27,000, then comes France at 19,000 and Spain comes in third with 8,000. Top countries in which people are granted asylum status are Syria, Eritrea and Iraq. This from an economic perspective which helps further illustrate the seriousness of the crisis in numbers.

Refugee Politics in Germany

Flúchtlingspolitik or refugee politics in Germany is a topic discussed rampantly in the country. The German refugee policy is considered as “admirable in many ways” because of its attempts of trying “to fulfill its moral duties to refugees” (Nanette, 2016).There are many legalities of the policy taken from the German Basic Law, specifically article 16a, where people have the right to asylum. It states that “persons persecuted on political grounds shall have the right of asylum” and this relates to the issue of refugees. Two important laws of the refugee policy, the Asylum Law and Integration Law, were created and passed on July 7, 2016. Through these policies, refugees are first “granted either asylum or protected refugee status” (290) for a duration of three years or the other option of “subsidiary protection” for only one year. They then go through a series of regulations to determine their status in Germany. One of the restrictions include from this process includes that if the country that they arrived from was considered a “safe country”, then they would automatically face rejection and their future is decided, “a scheduling for deportation” but there could a ban placed upon this deportation if it one of several reasons is determined such as if their life would be endangered, “because of their health or conditions in their country”. Even so, there are problems with establishing clear boundaries for these categories of what is considered as a “safe country” and what would be “life-endangering” and questions about who gets to decide the fate of these refugees arise too. At this period, the refugees are not fully accepted, instead they are “tolerate” or geduldete in German. In addition, these refugees also have the opportunity to obtain further extensions for the categories mentioned previously or attempt to have a repeal of their decisions.

Furthermore, there are specific requirements to be granted “asylum or protected refugee status” as the refugee needs to fulfill having a “well-founded fear of persecution in [their] country of origin” relating to several traits of “race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group” (Nanette, 2016). And those who want to acquire “subsidiary protection”, must have “substantial grounds for believing that [they] would face a real risk of suffering serious harm in [their] country of origin”, which does not exclude the conflicts relating to international or internal arms. It is important to gain refugee status as it is also necessary perquisite in order to have access to some benefits for refugees to support their family’s migration as well or allowed participation with “priority for job training and language courses”.

In Germany, the refugees are organized into big buildings that are funded by the state but organized by private organization. They are housed in these large buildings until they receive news or updates on their status for asylum. There are many refugee housings throughout Germany and they are located in various areas, from “large cities to small towns” (Nanette, 2016), They are often cramped and in many buildings.

Definitions for Refugees

 It is important to note that there are establishments of the definition of who are regarded as refugees, even though in many places like Germany may regard the terms “refugee”, “asylum seeker” and “migrant” as similar and use them interchangeably (OECD, 2018). However, it is essential to learn about the proper definitions of the terms to avoid any possible confusions. Migrants basically encompass any persons that relocate to a different country “with the intention of staying for a certain period of time”. Permanent and non-permanent “migrants with a valid residence permit or visa, asylum seeks and undocumented migrants” can fall under this term. Furthermore, refugees are persons who have completed their applications for asylum and have been granted a bit of protection, which can fall under “formal refugee status according to the Geneva Convention or to the German fundamental law”. This term can also relate to other persons such as those that have participated in resettlement programs that were facilitated by UNHCR, especially in the host countries of Australia, Canada and the U.S. In addition, this term covers persons that have subsidiary protection. Subsidiary protection is typically granted to persons who have not qualified as a refugee but there are complications to their safety if they were to participate in repatriation or return to their home country. The third term, asylum seekers define persons that have completed their applications for asylum, but are in the process of waiting for their results. Unlike other Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Germany’s process for asylum registration has two tiers. First people are required to complete their registrations “as prospective asylum applicants” and then they will be able to “file an asylum request”. However, there has been few problems and complications that came from this two-tiered process as the amounts of requests has increased, so there have been “long delays in asylum seeking” in Germany.

Solutions for Refugees

The United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has detailed several categories that are used in the process of finding possible and viable solutions for the problems of refugees. These categories include legal, economic, social/cultural and civil/political processes. Some things that need to be considered are the legalities such as rights that the refugees are designated that include basics rights such as “right to work, freedom of movement” and etc. (Refworld). When regarding economic factors, refugees should have the opportunity to “participate in the local work force either through jobs or self-employment” and have “access to land, acess to financing or credit and etc”. Furthermore, some features in the social or cultural process are that the refugee should be “accepted by the host community and State into the community without fear of discrimination” and they should have the opportunity to the “establishment of joint businesses and access to community centers”. Leading to civil or political processes, there should also be the right to “participate in civil society”, which includes being able to have the opportunity to government jobs and participate in the processes of elections. Even so, refugees could only be “granted” these rights or supervised by the UNHCR if they are mandated by them, which requires a long process to get to.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) details several solutions for the refugee crisis. The first solution involves voluntary repatriation, which is essentially, refugees returning back home if it is deemed safe. However, this solution has little implementation because of the problems with numerous amounts of refugees not being able to simply return because of ongoing “conflict, wars or persecution” in their home country. Another option would be resettlement in a different country. If voluntary repatriation is not a viable option. This solution encompasses several programs to help refugees with settlement such as “cultural orientation, language and vocational training” and “access to education and employment”, which are important in helping refugees adjust in a new country. Even so, this solution is not often implemented as only less than 1% submit for resettlement out of the total of 14.4 million refugees considered as concern to UNHCR. If the two previous options do not appear to work for the refugees, then local integration in a host country could work. This solution involves an extremely “complex process” as it places a lot of responsibilities and weight on both the refugee and the host country that is helping. Even though this is the case, there are also positives as the refugees that settle into their new host countries can positively contribute in a social and economic manner. This solution appears to be the most used, but it is not the most effective as there are complications. There is a total of 1.1 million refugees that have taken this route throughout the past ten years.

Voluntary Reparation

There will be a more detailed explanation of these three solutions that the UNHCR currently has in place. It is important to note that the term voluntary is taken seriously when discussing voluntary repatriation as it is crucial that this solution allows the refugee to make the decision to return to be “free and informed”. There should not be any pressures from any external sources and the refugee should not be convinced otherwise. Regulations are needed to appropriately measure this process as there needs to be the fulfillment that the refugee will return to “physical, legal and material safety”. UNHCR “provides the framework” for this process as it includes the responsibilities and roles involved. Some examples of the implementation of this solution include 4,600 Angolan refugees returning back in September 2015 and overall, 18,000 have returned since the year of 2014. Another example includes 5,000 Rwandans returning home in the year of 2015, totaling the number to 160,000 since the year of 2,000. Even though there has been somewhat some success with this solution, it is quite on a small scale and it not used often.

Local Integration

Local integration is the second option for refugees. The document that supports and is important in providing the legalities and the basis for this solution is the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. After a willing and able State, such as Germany, decides that they “will offer local integration prospects”. There will be a comprehensive process that will determine how the solution will get played out and this is determined with “a number of factors” (UNHCR, 2018). These factors are determining for which groups would this option be the most viable or important to and these can include “refugees born on a host country’s territory” and they are at a high risk “of statelessness” or have no determined nationality. The host country should also be able to recognize the possible challenges that come from opening up their country to refugees, which could be negative impact of refugees “living many years and decades without a clear idea of possible options” but should also keep in mind advantages as the refugees can create a positive impact as they “invest in the country and contribute to the community”, such as in economical ways.

There have been some instances in the past in which countries have been willing but are not completely able to help with local integration as they do not have enough resources and as a result, need help from the larger community at an international level. The number of able and willing is so small compared to the rest of the options and this raises the question about what could be done about the other possible states that could help with characteristics of willing and not able or not willing but able (UNHCR).

An example of local integration includes Brazil as there has been a gradual increase in refugees in the country since the year of 2010 and as a result, there has been the decrease of employment opportunities available. Some steps that were taken were that there has been “increased partnership with the private sector”, to provide more opportunities for jobs for the refugees and also with public and private universities, to help support the education of the refugees, specifically higher-education.

Local integration in Germany includes several projects such as leisure and sport program, cultural and languages program, program for women and more (Bundesamt für Migration und Flücthling, 2018). Regarding leisure and sport programs, there are many opportunities for refugees to get to know other civilians as they participate in after-school programs that involve music, dance or sports. This provides several benefits as it aids the process in refugees being able to be involved in the process of creating something together and “breaks down prejudices” as others get to know the refugees and will be able to make their own perceptions, instead of preconceived notions from stigmatization. There are programs to help younger refugees to get integrated into German society with special programs in gymnasiums, or high schools and cultural programs to help them get accustom to German cultures as they interact with German students daily. There are also specialized programs for women refugees as there are courses to also learn German and courses that relate to issues of “everyday life, family, health and school”. There are also additional programs and services made available to refugees to help them comfortably integrate into the German community.

Resettlement

The third solution for refugees is resettlement and it is the option that is most widely used. This solution is important for refugees that are not able to find sufficient protection in their home or asylum country. Resettlement has the possibility of being “an effective mechanism for responsibility sharing and international cooperation” and this aligns with the principle of international solidarity as it provides possibilities of options to help (UNHCR, 2018). Agreements within the resettlement umbrella can help with refugees that travel overseas to disembark at coastal states. This is helpful as it differentiates responsibilities for “initial reception and processing arrangements from the provision of long term solutions. And this reason is now more important as resettlement being used as a solution has increased drastically as more States are interested in hosting and more cases are being submitted to UNHCR since the year of 2012.

A case relating to resettlement involves Egypt and trafficking victims. Since 2006, there have been many cases of smuggling of humans from Africa through East Sudan going into Israel, which originally began as a voluntary movement and then progressed into kidnappings in 2010. Some actions that have been taken place by the UNHCR is resettlement to protect these victims. It is interesting to note that local integration was not a realistic option for this case because the UNHCR had considered that there were not any “adequate services for treating severely traumatized victims of trafficking”. The victims were given priority for the registration for refugee status and often resulted in the implementation of resettlement to another country (UNHCR, 2018).
           

Germany has had a program with the solution of resettlement since the year of 2012 and before was only ad-hoc for resettlement. In the year of 2016, the admission target was 800 but increased to a maximum of 14,300 the following year. Germany has had an annual amount 300 persons that participated in the resettlement program from 2012 to 2014. There was a slight increase to a total of 500 in 2015. And Germany has plans to resettle a total of 1,600 in the following two years. Refugees arrive in German after going through the application process for resettlement from the UNHCR, who then “grants mandate refugee status” (UNHCR, 2018) and this appears to be the only way for admittance of resettlement for now.

Effectiveness of the Solutions

Discussing the effectiveness of the solutions that UNHCR has for refugees and its implementation in aiding refugees, it has helped few but truthfully not have had a lot of success. The solutions appear to work for a short period of time and is not effective for long periods of time. Data show that out of the refugees that UNHCR is accounted for, approximately 5.6 million, there are only 3% that participated in voluntary repatriation and 1% that are resettled (UNHCR, 2018). In the past, voluntary reparation has “been the solution for the largest proportion of refugees”, but the number of participants in this solution has dramatically declined since the year of 2011 because of problems of conflicts in the home country not ceasing. . Some statistics to illustrate this are that the number of participants decreased to 526,000 in the year of 2012 and to 414,000 a year later. As a result, only “6.5 million refugees were able to return to their country of origin in the past decade” in comparison to the number of 14.6 million in the decade before. Even UNHCR are discussing about how this solution has not been extremely effective as of late.

Resettlement has only been able to have helped about 1% of the refugees and requires a lot of resources to implement. There have frequently been low numbers of participants in this solution, reaching only about 69,252 refugees in 2012 and 71,411 in 2013 (UNHCR, 2018). There are additional problems as because resettlement requires so much resources that they have limited availability and are only able to accommodate a restricted amount, which further limits its impact. Furthermore, UNHCR estimates “that 691,000 people” needed resettlement in the following year of 2014. The host country with the most acceptance of resettlement cases is the United States, about 67% of the toal cases, even so, there are not many host country participants in this solution. Some staff members of UNHCR reasons that a general consensus is that resettlement is not the best solution because there were a small number of refugees that are aided and the process details so much rigor.

Compared to the other solutions, it is the most difficult to measure the success of local integration because there are so many differing ways to define integration and there are also a lot of “high political sensitivity in host countries”. This solution involves a selection of categories such as “legal, economic and/or social integration” (UNHCR, 2018). UNHCR has been working on ways to improve this solution for refugees and has worked for “better naturalization statistics”. Overall, approximately 431 host countries of asylum have “granted citizenship” to approximately 716,000 refugees”. An important part of local integration is detailed in the 1951 Convention relation to the Status of Refugees and this includes that the refugees have “the right to work” but results of this have proven to be not quite implemented, as 28 States a part of the convention have placed restrictions for refugees regarding the right. In addition, it was difficult for some refugees to obtain job opportunities as some states have made restrictions on this with “a legal bar on employment”.

Generally, the three solutions detailed have not been extremely effective as exemplified by statistics in the past years. And this raises the question of possible improvements to these solutions or new additional solutions that could be implemented. Finding solutions for refugees is a difficult task and working out its implementation is even more so and has been proven a challenge for UNHCR and it host country participants.

Addition of Complementary Pathways

 In addition to these solutions, a question arises about any possible additional solutions that could also be implemented. Furthermore, there are “complementary pathways” that can be used in conjunction with the solutions (UNHCR, 2018). These pathways can be used to further help refugees reach the solutions that meet their “international protection needs”. Some examples of complementary pathways are family reunification, especially for “extended family members” who do not meet the guidelines of resettlement for a refugee or educational-based programs that require communities and educational institutions to become involved and regulate. Pathways are not limited to a level of scope and can be either “local, regional or global” and can be used in implementation to help “a limited number of nationalities, professions and skills or other categories”.

Reason for Migration: Conflict in Syria

(journal on migration) Numerous amounts of Syrians have been fleeing Syria since 2011 as many conflicts appear as a result of “the government of Bashar al-Assad” and others. This creates a plethora of displacement that occurs throughout the war-torn country. In 2014, there were approximately 7.6 million Syrians that fell under the category of internally displaced persons, people who have migrated without crossing borders because of conflict and an additional 3.7 million left the country. In the same year, about “one million Syrians” were able to have their statuses as refugees approved. Even though many Syrians were granted refugee status in their host countries, there were still 117,590 that were a part of the waiting process on being notified about their status decision.

The conflict had a huge toll on countries that were nearby, such as “Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey shouldering the largest burden”. This is especially illustrated in statistics, as Lebanon with a population of 4.8 million, has about a million Syrian refugees residing in the country, a 1/5 of their population. Furthermore, Turkey had the most Syrian refugees at 1.5 million and Jordan was in third with 500,000 refugees. The conflict has caused many problems relating to refugee issues, creating an influx of migrants that are displaced.

Refugee Situation in Germany

There is a total of 7,594,000 persons in Germany with a migrant background and about 1,099,363 (DESTATIS) are from Turkey and 698,950 are from Syria. Furthermore, almost everywhere in Germany, people are discussing the topic of refugees, especially in the city of Berlin. Often these questions may relate to the physical characteristics of refugees as some are not quite sure what the refugees look like as in some areas, refugees are sometimes separated from other civilians for a period of time, in their designated housing. In the German state, there have been about one million refugees that have entered in the year of 2015 only and there was also the “adoption of integration politics” (Nanette). Germany’s policy on refugees has been somewhat established as a good and essential model for European refugee policy, however, it does have areas in which it needs improvement.

In the years of 2015-2016, Germany received the most asylum applications from persons from Syria, with a total of 424,907 applicants (OECD, 2018). The next countries with the highest amounts of applicants for asylum in Germany were Afghanistan with 158,394 applicants and Iraq with 125,900. Syrian applicants received a lot of recognition for obtaining asylum with a total of 98% of the total applicants, while only 56% Afghan received less recognition. This shows how some countries have more priority over others as they gain asylum status throughout Germany, most likely dependent on the direness of their situation.

Some more statistics on refugees in Germany include job-seekers, with Syrians being on top of the list with 252,231 persons (OECD, 2018). There are also statistics on the rates in which refugees are employed. Only approximately 28% refugees that had basic or worse German language skills were employed, while 65% with intermediate German were employed, which is the same percentage as those who were fluent. This illustrates the importance of obtaining or learning the German language for refugees in Germany as it increases job opportunities and that is why Germany has been making language programs easily accessible to refugees, which includes online courses as well. Other statistics illustrate how the asylum seekers are distributed throughout Germany and its municipalities as it is dependent on the size of the population. The top three municipalities that receive the most are North Rhine-Westphalia (north-west) with 21.2%, Bavaria (central) with 15.5% and Baden-Württemberg (south-west) with 12.9%.

In years of 2015 until 2016, Germany “embarked on a ‘Welcome Politics’ of care for refugees” and also “Integration Politics” supported by Chancellor Merkel as she enforces with her statement of “Wir schaffen das” or “we can do it” (Nanette, 2016). And as a result of this, Germany has allowed open borders throughout its country, allowing numerous amounts of refugees to enter and participate in the application for refugee status. This also “fulfills moral duties to refugees” as part of German’s culture of welcome, which basically encompasses a part of the German identity of human morality with the wanting to help, compared to other countries.

Even so, as a result of the crisis, it is unknown what the future for the country that has “tendencies toward both xenophobia and welcome culture” (Holmes, 2016). Furthermore, there are problems with negative connotations and stigmatization that the refugees receive as current civilians are worried that the new refugees would take their jobs or that they are labelled as “terrorists” because of some recent events that have been occurring in Europe with attacks from migrants. There is also the problem of xenophobia as they are fearful and not super knowledgeable or aware of negative stereotypes. And as a result, there have been “criticisms of Germany’s refugee policy” and the creation of hostility from others to refugees. These issues that arise are related to “serious applied ethics” and created discussions on limitations of responsibilities with questions of “Where does my responsibility end?” (Nanette, 2016).

There have been more problems as Nanette adds Konrad Ott’s, a German philosopher, words of criticizing “defenders of Merkel’s refugee policy” and referring them to as deontologists, as he questions the realistic sense of wanting to help “refugees purely as an end to itself”, which is “an ethics of conviction”, not having regard for possible consequences that could arise for others in the process. This raises questions about what is Germany’s duty on how many refugees they should except and is that number within their threshold? This has been a large debate among many Germans as there is no clear definition of German’s responsibility, which has caused a lot of problems for the country. Continuing on with criticisms, retrieved from various German authors, some Germans are afraid of the possibility of “Muslims threaten[ing] German cultural identity” (Nanette, 2016). As a result, this had fed into the further xenophobic ideas as “wearing the burka” has come to represent danger in the country, even though there are few women in the country that actually do wear them. In this context, cultural change has not really been viewed in a positive context as enrichment, but always in a negative context as a threat.

There are additional criticisms towards other things that allowing an influx of refugees to arrive “provided”, such as “threats to safety and social peace” which creates negative stigmatizations towards the refugees as some Germans are hostile and violent in regards to them because of their arrival (Nanette, 2016). Another problem relates to the “costs of refugee programs and its consequences”, it takes a lot of resources to aid refugees, as citizens that are poorer in terms of economic status could be negatively affected as there are “increased taxes, a higher retirement age and reduced state benefits” as Germany needs to accommodate more people. This raises the question of how much could Germany’s own citizens be negatively affected in order to fulfill the moral duties of the countries and its individuals of helping those in need such as refugees. This further raises the issue of sense of moral obligation and capabilities.

Voice from the German Public

A county in Germany named Passau has been “accepting more refugees than whole countries in Eastern Europe” (Feichtinger, 2016). And in this article titled Refugees in Germany by Hans Feichtinger, he details his opinion on the refugee situation in his home country. He states that he is “proud of the charity and hospitability” that he observes from Germans but because the number of refugees has increased dramatically in the past year, there needs to be a limitation established as there are many challenges that come with allowing refugees to arrive, especially with such a large amount. Some examples of challenges that are mentioned are the difficulties of finding “suitable living quarters”, “accepting refugee children in schools” and adds that the recent attacks in Europe, such as Hannover were from refugees that entered Europe. He continues to voice his opinion and states that there are reasons why Germany has been so “generous” in allowing numerous amounts of refugees to enter the country, which are because it aligns with the philanthropy of Germans and the chancellor and also provides economic benefits, as “economic leaders have acknowledged that the Federal Republic needs immigration to maintain its economic prosperity”. And continues to address the issue by stating that it is “slightly unfair” to “accuse refugees of wanting to immigrate to this prosperity and security” as it depends on immigration in Germany.

Even so, the refugee situation in Germany has been shown to “become the ultimate ‘wedge’ issue of German politics” as problems arise and become obvious (Dorstal, 2017). As mentioned previously, it is difficult to define some terms such as “refugee” and “migrant” as various interpretations can be made for each term. To obtain the refugee status, it was suggested that the persons need to be “facing individual persecution” relating to their “race, religion, nationality or political beliefs”. And those who do not fall under this category may have the opportunity to gain “temporary protective status” until the conflict ends. However, there are problems as the protective status is stated to not guarantee “permanent residency in Germany”. There are also expectations set in place for migrants that arrive in Germany as they should be able to “integrate into Germany society” and the economy that would “benefit both sides”. There continues to be a problem in Germany, as shown on social media and television, with defining the boundaries for the terms as they have been used “without any clear distinction by politicians”, which further adds to the confusion for German individuals as observers as some political figures cannot distinguish them properly either.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to note that there have been the recent resurface of refugee problems as there was recently a large increase of migrants as a result of conflicts such as the ones in Syria. This has caused a lot of problems as responsibilities are not evenly dispersed, with able countries not willing to help and partake in a share of the responsibilities. There are also implications with limitations of aiding refugees as there could be negative benefits that affect the host country’s current civilians in the process of helping the refugees. It is important to use statistical sources to help illustrate the large picture of the numerous amounts of refugees in the refugee crisis, easier to see in images.

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