Refugee and migration issues - what German foreign policy is doing
Never since the end of the Second World War have so many people been forced to flee their homes. The refugee crisis cannot be solved by national legislation alone but requires an international approach.
Overcrowded refugee boat by the Greek island Lesbos
© dpa/picture alliance
There are currently more than 60 million refugees in the world – more than at any time since the end of the Second World War. Half of these refugees are children and minors, who need special protection. The primary causes of flight and displacement are violent conflict, at present particularly in Syria, eroding state structures and the lack of prospects in the countries of origin and transit.
How is German foreign policy helping?
- Avoiding crises: Crisis prevention projects help ensure there is no cause for flight in the first place. Alongside participation in peace missions, such projects include measures to strengthen local police structures in the Congo and promote the process of reconciliation in Mali.
- Defusing crises: German foreign policy is working actively to de‑escalate violent conflicts, both bilaterally and at European and multilateral level. One current focus is the so-called Vienna process towards a political solution for the conflict in Syria.
- Helping on the ground: Germany is providing direct aid in the crisis regions by providing emergency shelters, foodstuffs, health care and education. In this context, Germany is also supporting relevant international organisations, such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP). In conflict and post-conflict situations, stabilisation projects open up the prospect of being able to stay or return by restoring a secure environment, basic healthcare and a functioning infrastructure.
- Contributing to the European response: Germany is constantly in touch with its European partners to arrive at a joint solution based on solidarity and shared responsibility and to improve the protection of the EU’s external borders.
- Providing information about flight and migration: The Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad provide information about the dangers of fleeing with the help of criminal trafficking rings and about the reality of the situation in Germany, also from the legal point of view. They specifically address and correct the misleading information spread by traffickers.
Where is German foreign policy helping?
The German Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent distributing aid in Aleppo
© SARC Aleppo
Conflict in Syria
Between 2012 and 2015 Germany provided around 1.4 billion euros in aid for the victims of the war in Syria, making it the third-largest donor worldwide. At the Supporting Syria and the Region conference co-hosted by Germany in London on 4 February 2016, Federal Chancellor Merkel announced a further 2.3 billion euros in support for the period 2016-2018. This was the biggest amount pledged from within the international community. One billion euros are earmarked for United Nations aid programmes in 2016, including 570 million for the World Food Programme (WFP), meaning that Germany is likely to cover half of the WFP’s funding requirements for the victims of the conflict in Syria. Germany is also contributing 200 million euros to the Partnership for Prospects employment initiative, which aims to create a total of 500,000 jobs in the region for Syrian refugees. Further, Germany is offering 1900 university scholarships for Syrians, for example via the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), the Leadership for Syria programme run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) or the Scholars at Risk network of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
Aid supplies for Yarmouk and Yelda refugee camps near Damascus
Within Syria, Germany is helping via the Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF), which has been funding projects to provide essential services to people in Syria since 2013. Germany was a co-initiator of the Fund and is its second-largest donor. To date, over two million people in the country have benefited directly from SRTF projects, which have included the restoration of the power supply and food production.
Germany is providing support for victims of the war in Syria’s neighbouring countries as well. In places where people have found an initial safe haven, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, projects are helping to give refugees from Syria access to the local education system and labour market. In addition, needy families are receiving food packages, hygiene kits, winter relief and healthcare, among other things. For example, clinics and emergency medical care reach 65,000 people in Lebanon alone.
Distributing aid to refugees in Erbil
In areas where the ISIS terrorist group has been driven out, Germany is providing support via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help people get back to normality as quickly as possible. Solid accommodation and access to water, electricity, healthcare and schools are particularly important in this regard. Since the start of the crisis, the Federal Foreign Office has made over 100 million euros available to aid organisations. Cash transfer programmes and the procurement of aid supplies on local markets help strengthen local structures and foster people’s independence. Furthermore, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Germany is helping to rebuild and equip the police force and municipalities in former ISIS-controlled areas.
The city of Tikrit, where conditions have largely been stabilised, is one success story: some 90% of the population has returned to date, taxi companies are up and running, many supermarkets have reopened and life is returning to the city.
Information campaigns extend to urban and rural buses
© Federal Foreign Office
Afghanistan currently has the second‑highest number of refugees. So Germany is engaged there as well, committed to tackling the causes of flight on the ground. One element of this engagement is support for stabilisation projects in particularly hard-hit areas. In Kunduz, for example, Germany is rebuilding much of what was destroyed when the Taliban took over the city in September 2015. With the help of the charitable organisation Caritas, over 1000 needy families are getting access to drinking water, food and sanitation. In addition, Germany is funding projects to promote the integration of internally displaced persons and Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
In November 2015 a multilevel public campaign was launched to inform people wishing to migrate of the risks of flight and migration as well as to refute misleading rumours. For example, large adverts on the sides of cross-country buses say “Don’t trust human traffickers – Visit www.rumoursaboutgermany.info”.
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Last updated 13.07.2016