Society: five years after the refugee summer: asylum policy separates Germany from the world

Berlin – You have walled up your vision of the world, the group “Refugees Welcome” as well as the opponents of a liberal asylum policy.

If you talk to some of them, they give examples of Syrians who graduated from high school with flying colors and Iraqis who started their own businesses. If you ask others, they point to the higher crime rate among immigrants and the many refugees who are still unemployed.

So – five years after the so-called refugee crisis – everyone in Germany is still living in their own reality. To date, the admission of more than 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016 holds enough controversy potential to interrupt family celebrations and barbecues with friends.

“The year 2015 revealed a dividing line in German society: on the one hand, those involved in helping refugees; on the other hand, the influx of so many people has provoked xenophobia, fears which are not rationally founded, ”says political scientist Herfried Münkler. “The pull towards the political center that we saw earlier has ended.”

The fundamental controversy is still not over. According to Matthias Jung of the Wahlen Research Group, however, the picture is stable: “We have seen relatively few changes in mood since the refugee crisis, other than occasional fluctuations in events like New Years Eve in Cologne. When asked if Germany can cope with the number of refugees arriving, 60 percent agree, 40 disagree. “


The bitterness with which asylum policy is challenged is comparable to the arguments of the corona crisis. Here, too, the trenches often seem insurmountable.

Flashback: end of August, beginning of September 2015. At Keleti train station, in the Hungarian capital Budapest, people invade the corridors in the stifling heat. They sleep on thin mats, hoping for a chance to travel and take a shower. There are more every hour. Many come from Syria, some from North Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan.

From Hungary, they set off on foot on the motorway towards Austria. Under the pressure of events, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her Austrian colleague Werner Faymann agreed on the night of September 5 to allow people to enter the country. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban took them to the Austrian border by bus. They are greeted with applause and welcome posters at Munich Central Station.

Many citizens found Germany, from which so many had fled under the Nazi regime, to be generous. Some were downright intoxicated by the praise with which Germany’s “welcoming culture” was celebrated internationally.


In practical matters, however, there was sometimes disillusion and bewilderment in the first few weeks. How does the registration of many asylum seekers manage their accommodation? And what will happen to those who, obviously, neither civil war nor political persecution, but simply the desire for a life of modest prosperity brought them to Germany?

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The practical issues have been brought under control – also thanks to the great commitment of the municipal officials, says Reinhard Sager, president of the German District Association. However, the long-term challenges were by no means overcome. It was not only the high number of asylum seekers that drove Germany “to the limits of its integration capacity”, but also that many refugees came without being able to prepare. “Insufficient knowledge of the German language, significant cultural differences, lack or lack of recognition of diplomas – all of which make integration in this country difficult.”


At the end of 2019, 363,000 people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria were employed and subject to social security contributions in Germany, including 55,000 trainees. The Federal Employment Agency has an additional 75,000 people among fringe employees. However, this also includes immigrants who did not come as refugees but, for example, as students, spouses or migrant workers. According to preliminary data, the unemployment rate in these countries was 39.8 percent in May – far higher than for the general population.

In addition: Especially with migration, the principle sometimes stands in the way of pragmatism. It was only last year that the grand coalition passed a law on the immigration of skilled workers. In particular, the CDU and CSU fear that too much openness could be taken as a signal that everyone is welcome. This is why most migrants only have access to the labor market once it has been decided that they are allowed to stay.

Political scientist Münkler criticizes this hesitant integration into the world of work. “People need to find jobs here quickly, even if they don’t speak German perfectly and risk being rejected in the asylum procedure. People had bad things behind them, some fled thousands of miles and then they’re barracks and sitting here. lazy. It creates problems. “The country needs workers – and low-skilled people can be trained.” If you don’t actively approach integration, then you will have problems later, as we have today with the Lebanese clans, including some are criminals. “

Crime is another criterion for integration. The annual “Situation report on crime in the context of immigration” from the Federal Criminal Police Office, which deals with asylum seekers, refugees, tolerated persons and third-country nationals staying in the country without permission, provides clues.

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The police found: Migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, who have a very good chance of protection in this country, are much less likely to become criminals than, for example, migrants from Maghreb countries, very few of whom are recognized as refugees. It can also be inferred from statistics that immigrants are over-represented in murder, homicide, aggravated assault and rape – like young men in general.


The deportation of failed asylum seekers is and will remain extremely difficult. The rural district council found that the immigration of refugees was also contributing to a change in social and political conditions. President of the Sager Association: “ The dispute over whether and to what extent persons seeking protection should be admitted has arisen – also taking into account the clear cases of abuse and, above all, the fact that ‘a large number of those refused in search of protection do not leave the country voluntarily and deportations often fail – Clearly acquired over time. “On the whole, it must be said:” The social climate has suffered. “

At the political level, asylum immigration could become the most difficult subject of possible coalition negotiations between the Union and the Greens after the next federal elections. The Greens can, in principle, subscribe to the concept of “humanity and order” in migration policy, which Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has tried repeatedly. To what extent humanity is necessary and possible, however, opinions clearly differ. The dispute over the admission of additional asylum seekers to Berlin and Thuringia from overcrowded Greek camps shows this once again.

And how much order does he need? The president of the district assembly warns: “In no case should the impression resurface that immigration – including and especially the immigration of refugees – is out of state control.” Political scientist Münkler, a 2015 Policy Advocate of the Year, also notes: “It is legitimate for Germany to limit immigration after taking in so many people and caring for those who are here now.”

Seehofer, then still Prime Minister of Bavaria, described the unimpeded entry of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers – the majority of whom did not have ID cards – as the “rule of injustice” in 2016. He is now trying to push forward a fundamental reform of the European asylum system.

He wants to move away from the principle that asylum seekers usually have to seek protection where they first enter the EU and are then returned at great expense when they leave. Seehofer advocates a “preliminary examination” at the EU’s external borders. Only those who have a chance of asylum should be distributed in Europe, all the others should be expelled as directly as possible. But the project has stalled because some states, where few refugees arrive, have for years resisted a new distribution mechanism. And then there was Corona.

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You can often tell who is where by choosing the terms with which he or she describes the people involved. Anyone who carries a cotton bag with the label “No one is illegal” or “Pier” is more likely to call foreigners seeking protection “refugees” or “refugees” – than the reason they are leaving their country of origin either political persecution or terror, armed conflict or lack of economic prospects.

Experts from the Expert Council of the German Foundations for Integration and Migration, on the other hand, only speak of “refugees” when it comes to people whose asylum claims have been successful. The increasingly popular term “refugees” is “broader, because it does not refer only to the legal situation”, explains President Petra Bendel. “Historically, it’s not that strong and tends to include all refugees, regardless of gender.” AfD politicians, on the other hand, prefer to speak of “illegal mass immigration” and “so-called refugees”.

For the AfD, which was in crisis after the economically liberal wing split around party co-founder Bernd Lucke in 2015, the large number of asylum seekers in the fall of the same year was tactically a “gift” , as its current honorary president Alexander Gauland admitted at the end. By positioning itself as an anti-asylum party, the AfD was able to gain many supporters. At the time, Gauland told “Spiegel”: “Of course, we owe our recovery mainly to the refugee crisis.”

Matthias Jung of the Wahlen research group believes, however, that the CDU / CSU gave the AfD a tailwind in the years that followed, although that was probably not the intention. According to the pollster: “During the federal election campaign of 2017, the Union ensured that the issue of migration picked up speed, which the AfD was able to benefit from”.

The suffering of refugees who drown in the Mediterranean Sea or live in slums affects far fewer Germans today than it did a few years ago, Jung says. “If you have the feeling that a problem cannot be solved, then you had better look elsewhere.” There is also an ambivalence: “When people see the suffering of refugees, they want to help. But they are also afraid that immigration will lead to change. People are happy to help. But the whole problem should also go away. ”

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200809-99-97816 / 3

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