The refugee and migration situation

Overcrowded refugee boat by the Greek island Lesbos

Overcrowded refugee boat by the Greek island Lesbos, © dpa/picture alliance

20.09.2021 - Article

There are now more refugees globally than at any time since the end of the Second World War. The refugee and migration situation cannot be resolved by any one country alone. Instead, the international community needs to take a joint approach.


All in all, there are currently over 82 million forcibly displaced persons, of which 48 million are internally displaced – more than ever before. Half of these refugees are children and minors, who need special protection. The main reasons why people flee or are displaced include violent conflicts, massive violations of human rights and eroding state structures in their countries of origin and transit countries. Particularly countries of first admission or transit countries, i.e. states that directly border conflict zones, bear the greatest burden when it comes to coping with refugee and migration flows. Economic reasons and the (both direct and indirect) effects of climate change may also cause people to leave their homes. In total, about a quarter of a billion people are living outside their countries of origin.

What is German foreign policy doing to help?

Germany is working hard to alleviate the causes of forced migration and to protect refugees. A key element of Germany’s precautionary foreign policy involves taking on a more active role as regards fostering peace and security worldwide. Diplomacy has a crucial role to play in this. In its national and European interests and in accordance with its international humanitarian commitments, Germany also calls for migration movements to be actively steered and shaped.

Men carrying goods on a wheelbarrow in a destroyed city
Staff of the German Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Movement provide goods in Aleppo© SARC Aleppo

Aspects of Germany’s foreign policy engagement include: 

•    Preventing crises: Crisis-prevention projects help to ensure that people have no reason to flee their country in the first place. Alongside participation in peace missions, such projects include measures to strengthen local police structures in the Congo or support inclusive elections on the African continent.

•    Defusing crises: German foreign policy works actively to de‑escalate violent conflicts, both bilaterally and at European and multilateral level. Stabilisation projects create opportunities for people to remain at home or return in conflict and post-conflict situations. They also re‑establish a safe environment and restore basic healthcare and functioning infrastructure.

•    Providing humanitarian assistance on the ground: Germany provides direct assistance in crisis-hit regions in the form of emergency accommodation, food, healthcare and education. By supporting the United Nations’ humanitarian organisations such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), Germany helps to alleviate the suffering of those most affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

•    Co-shaping a European response:

Germany is in constant contact with its European partners, with the aim of finding a joint solution to refugee and migration issues based on solidarity and shared responsibility. To this end, both the protection of the EU’s external borders as well as tailor-made partnerships at European level with key countries of origin and transit are essential.

Moreover, Germany is substantially involved in taking in refugees in need of particular protection within the framework of the EU Resettlement Programme. In 2020/2021, Germany has provided up to 6800 places for Resettlement, the humanitarian admission scheme with Turkey as well as Land refugee programmes.

•    Helping to find solutions at international level: Germany plays an active role in fostering a fairer division of responsibility internationally in order to solve and prevent large and protracted refugee situations and to improve migration management in the framework of the United Nations, at G20 and G7 level, and in the Global Forum on Migration and Development. In this connection, Germany actively supports the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees, the aim of which is to ensure a fairer sharing of international responsibility with regard to refugees.

•    Informing people about fleeing and migration: The Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad provide information locally about the dangers of fleeing and irregular migration, as well as about the actual and legal conditions for refugees and migrants in Germany. The website www.rumoursaboutgermany.info addresses and corrects deliberately false information as well as current rumours.

Distributing aid to refugees in Erbil
Distributing aid to refugees in Erbil© Photothek/Imo

•    Enhancing the protection of refugees: People who need protection must receive it. Countries that take in particularly large numbers of refugees must thus be given support. To this end, for example, Germany assists host countries in looking after refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

•    Giving people opportunities: The vast majority of refugees worldwide remain in their home regions and find protection and a new home in neighbouring countries. In this context, education is a key factor for integration and leading a self-determined life. For the past 25 years, Germany has helped refugees to start or continue a university degree in their host country via UNHCR’s Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI).

•    Promoting return and reintegration: If migrants are not granted permission to remain legally in a third country, Germany helps them to voluntarily return to their region of origin. Furthermore, in cooperation with IOM Germany is helping migrants in transit countries in North Africa to find out more about safe ways of returning home and reintegrating and, if necessary, provides them with logistic assistance to return home.

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