Notes de l'Ifri Notes du Cerfa

Five theses on the "refugee crisis" in Germany Notes du Cerfa, No. 142, Ifri, May 2018

The term "refugee crisis" is not uncontroversial in Germany; it is indeed accused of presenting the refugees as being responsible for the crisis. The events that have occurred since the summer of 2015 should rather be called "crisis of the authorities", given that Germany could have anticipated the massive increase in the number of refugees. The use of the term "refugee crisis" in this article is axiologically neutral and reflects its present common use in politics, the media and specialised literature.


The term "refugee", which does not reflect the heterogeneity of immigrant situations in Germany, is less common in France than in Germany. When used in France, it is to facilitate the understanding of the reader. The definition used here is that of the Geneva Convention: "the term "refugee" will apply to any person who is outside their country of nationality and who is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country". There will be a distinction between "tolerated" refugees and persons enjoying subsidiary protection and asylum seekers, in accordance with Article 16a of the German Constitution.

The refugee crisis in Germany was first mentioned in the light of the events in the summer of 2015; at the time, the chroniclers established a direct link between the refugee crisis and the "open door policy". Admittedly, this characterisation is not entirely false, given the prolonged absence of reliable statistics on immigration, which can be explained by, among other things, double registration and the fact that some people have continued their journey to other EU countries without declaring it. Nevertheless, this phenomenon reflects more the shortcomings of the authorities concerning refugee registration than a real political orientation of the government in response to the increase in the number of refugees. Germany has, on the contrary, reacted by progressively toughening its asylum rights, and seems to be permanently closing its doors to many groups of migrants.


Nele Katharina Wissmann worked at the Cerfa from September 2009 to April 2016. Since September 2016, she is a Research associate.

This paper is published in French only: Nele Katharina Wissmann, « Cinq thèses sur la "crise des réfugiés" en Allemagne », Notes du Cerfa, n° 142, Ifri, mai 2018.



German refugee crisis Germany