According to estimates by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a total of 114 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced (as of September 2023). Since 2013 the number of refugees has more than doubled. In particular the millions of Ukrainians forced to leave their homes, as well as other displacement movements, such as in the Sahel region, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar, have caused these figures to rise sharply in recent times. Nearly half of those displaced are children and minors, who need special protection.
The main reasons why people flee their homes or are forcibly displaced include conflicts, persecution and massive human rights violations. Particularly countries that directly border crisis regions, and therefore serve as countries of first admission or transit countries, bear the greatest burden when it comes to coping with the movements of refugees and displaced persons. However, other motives such as a lack of economic prospects and eroding state structures may cause people to leave their homes. In such cases, we talk of migration. Migrants have no special right to protection, as is the case with refugees and displaced persons. The (direct and indirect) effects of climate change are also leading to an increasing number of people being driven out of their homes or migrating. In 2022 alone, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that there were 32.6 million new cases of displacement due to climate change or natural disasters.
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 line with its national and European interests and its international and humanitarian commitments, Germany also calls for migration movements to be actively steered and shaped. The aim is to counter irregular migration and strengthen safe, orderly and regular migration. To this end, the German Government has authorised Joachim Stamp, in his role as the Special Commissioner for Migration Agreements, to conclude comprehensive agreements with countries of origin. Most recently, for example, it was possible to sign a migration agreement with Georgia.
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 support the implementation of police reforms in Nigeria or to support democratic elections in African states.
- Defusing crises: German foreign policy works actively to de-escalate violent conflicts, both bilaterally and at European and multilateral level. Stabilisation projects, for example in the Lake Chad region/basin, have opened up prospects for people to either stay 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 aid in crisis-hit regions in the form of emergency accommodation, food, healthcare and education. By supporting the United Nations’ humanitarian organisations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), as well as NGOs, Germany helps to alleviate the suffering of those most affected by conflicts or who have been displaced as a result of climate change or natural disasters. Germany is the world’s second-largest donor of humanitarian assistance.
- Supporting maritime rescue: The Federal Foreign Office implements the Bundestag’s mandate to promote civilian maritime rescue through projects on land and at sea. From 2023 to 2026, two million euro annually have been earmarked to support civilian maritime rescue at sea as well as projects on land for people who have been rescued.
- Co-shaping a European response: Germany is in constant contact with its European partners, with the aim of reaching a joint solution to the refugee and migration situation. This is based on the principles of humanity and order, solidarity and shared responsibility. To this end, both the protection of the EU’s external borders and tailor-made sustainable 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 2023, Germany took in 4110 people seeking protection via resettlement, the humanitarian admission scheme with Turkey and refugee programmes run by the Länder.
- 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. In this connection, Germany actively supports the implementation of the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), the aim of which is to ensure a fairer sharing of international responsibility with regard to refugees. The implementation of the GCR is discussed every four years at the Global Refugee Forum, where states and relevant stakeholders share their experiences and discuss politically necessary changes and financial issues for dealing with the international refugee situation. Since 2018, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the international framework instrument designed to improve cooperation in the field of migration, has also been in place.
- Informing people about migration and refugee issues: The Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad provide information locally and on digital channels about the dangers of fleeing and irregular migration, as well as about possibilities for regular migration. The aim is to offer information about the actual and legal conditions for refugees and migrants in Germany, thus addressing misinformation deliberately spread as well as circulating rumours. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office supports information projects in countries of origin and transit, thus making it possible for potential migrants to make informed decisions.
- Enhancing the protection of refugees: People who need protection must receive it. Countries that take in particularly large numbers of refugees must therefore be given support.
- 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 30 years, the Federal Foreign Office 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: Germany helps migrants who are unable to remain legally in a third country to voluntarily return to their region of origin.