Policy Papers Notes du Cerfa

Humanitarian exploit or failure? The refugee crisis in Germany and Europe Note du Cerfa, No.129, March 2016

Since the summer of 2015, an unusually high number of people seeking protection have come to Germany, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their arrival has become to the dominant political and societal issue. Over time, the discussion on how to deal with the refugees has become increasingly conflictual. The general mood among citizens and the political climate have harshened overall.
While the federal government is striving for a European solution, based on a fairer distribution of asylum seekers among all EU member states, such a solution has so far proven to be impossible to find. The Dublin system, only partially functional anyway, which determines the responsibility for asylum seekers among European states, has broken down completely. As a consequence, hundreds of thousand came to Germany more or less without control. Besides Germany, only very few states opened their doors for people seeking protection. Against the backdrop of the ongoing economic crisis and terrorist attacks, not many EU countries were willing to contribute to a substantial European solution. The refugee crisis, occurring right after the Euro crisis, put the European community of states to a serious and ongoing test. Since February, the numbers of refugees have been going down as the Balkan route was gradually closed. To what extent an agreement with Turkey can lead to a functional and sustainable solution remains to be seen. Very likely, refugees will at least partly use alternative routes.
For Germany, the massive arrival of people represents an enormous societal challenge. Many of the newly arrived refugees will stay in Germany in the longer term or even forever. On the one hand, this is a chance to respond to the demographic change in German society and the lack of qualified workers. On the other hand, it however implies a considerable challenge to integrate hundreds of thousands of people from a different culture and very different prerequisites and prepare them to participate in the labor market and in society at large. Developments on the job market and the framework set by integration policies are more conducive than in the past. Nevertheless, this process will last for a long time and come along with societal conflicts.

Dr. Marcus Engler is a social scientist. He has worked as a consultant at UNHCR and the Integration Commissioner of Berlin, as a research associate at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR).


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refugees German refugee crisis Germany Europe