According to estimates by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a total of 101 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced (as of June 2022). In late 2021, this figure was at 89 million people, of whom around 53 million were internally displaced. In particular the millions of Ukrainians forced to leave their homes, as well as other displacement movements, such as in the Sahel region 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 conflict zones, 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 2021 alone, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that there were 23.7 million new cases of displacement due to climate change or natural disasters, with 5.9 million people displaced on a permanent basis.
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. The aim is to counter irregular migration and strengthen safe, orderly and regular migration.
Aspects of Germany’s foreign policy engagement include:
• Preventing crises: Crisis prevention projects help ensure there is no cause for people to flee their homes 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 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, 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. Having provided 2.57 billion euro, Germany is the world’s second largest donor of humanitarian assistance.
• 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. The basis for this is solidarity and shared responsibility. To this end, both the protection of the EU’s external borders and 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 2022, Germany has provided up to 6000 places for 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 Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) of the United Nations, the objective of which is to ensure a fairer sharing of international responsibility with regard to refugees, as well as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the international framework for enhanced cooperation in the sphere of migration.
• Informing people about fleeing and migration: 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 legal 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 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 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.