There are now over 65 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 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. Economic reasons can also cause people to leave their home. In total, around a quarter of a billion people have left their homeland in search of protection or better prospects for themselves and their families. Many refugees and migrants remain near their home region and need protection, adequate care and opportunities there.
What is German foreign policy doing to help?
Germany is working hard to alleviate the causes of forced migration. 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 particular role to play in this regard. 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 significantly mitigate the causes of forced and irregular Migration.
Aspects of Germany’s international endeavours 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 and promote the reconciliation process in Mali. https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/krisenpraevention
• 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 home in conflict and post-conflict situations. They also re-establish a safe environment and restore basic healthcare and functioning infrastructure.
• Providing humanitarian aid 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 aid 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. https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/humanitaerehilfe
• Co-shaping a European response: Germany is in constant contact with its European partners, with the aim of reaching a joint solution to refugee and migration issues based on solidarity and shared responsibility and improving the protection of the EU’s external borders. (https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/europa/migration-inneres-justiz/flucht-migration-node)
• 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 (https://gfmd.org/).
• 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 false information deliberately spread by criminal gangs of human smugglers, as well as current rumours.
• Providing refugees with better protection: People who need protection must receive it. Countries that take in particularly large numbers of refugees must thus be given support. Uganda has set new standards in its endeavours to help people who have fled the conflict in South Sudan. Refugees often only spend a short period of time in a refugee camp. They are often allocated a plot of land and live side by side with their Ugandan neighbours. The international community supports Uganda in its endeavours. At the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees in Kampala in June 2017, Germany donated 50 million euros to help look after refugees.
• Giving people opportunities: The vast majority of refugees worldwide remain in their home regions and find protection and a new home in their neighbouring countries. In this context, education is a key factor for integration and establishing 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 return to their region of origin. For example, together with Italy and the European Commission, the Federal Foreign Office co-funds a regional International Organization for Migration (IOM) project in Libya and 13 countries in the Sahel region that seeks to improve migration management and promote voluntary return to people’s countries of origin.
Find out more:
The questions are simple. They address rumours that are widely circulated among migrants and potential refugees, for example, “Will I receive a welcome payment in Germany?” To this, a new website set up by the Federal Foreign Office to get correct information to migrants clearly answers “No”. It goes on to say that, “Contrary to rumours and misinformation deliberately spread by human traffickers, Germany does not provide a welcome payment.”
Information campaign #rumoursaboutgermany
With the website www.rumoursaboutgermany.info, the Federal Foreign Office is continuing its information campaign of the same name, which it has been conducting abroad since the autumn of 2015. The new site, which is available in English, French and Arabic, gives a compact overview of all relevant information for migrants and refugees and provides the facts. It is thus meant to debunk common rumours that are being spread online by human traffickers. “The page has also been designed for use on smartphones. It contains simple and clearly formulated information for a target audience that is considering coming to, or is already en route to or has arrived in, Germany,” explains Andreas Kindl, Director for Strategic Communication, when asked about the idea behind the new website.
Getting rid of misinformation
To draw migrants’ attention to the site, it is being advertised throughout Germany and in the countries of origin, on various social media platforms and with flyers. As the name #rumoursaboutgermany indicates, its main aim is to get rid of misinformation by providing facts. In countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan or Algeria, rumours about Germany run rampant – these include the claim that, in Germany, every refugee receives a house as a gift. Human traffickers often deliberately spread such fabricated stories through the social media.
Providing the facts
“We provide the facts; we tell people that starting a new life in Germany is not as easy as many may think – without making the mistake of giving only negative examples,” says Kindl. For example, the website debunks the rumour that people everywhere in Germany speak English, or that the government gives everyone a job. Other articles target those who have already set out on what is frequently a dangerous journey to Europe, giving them possible alternatives. It contains profiles of the various programmes that support voluntary returnees, the humanitarian programmes that exist in refugee camps in transit states such as Mali, Jordan and Lebanon, and assistance programmes in the countries of origin. “The most important aim of our Rumours about Germany campaign is to not leave the human traffickers’ myths and rumours unchallenged on the Internet, but to provide correct information ourselves. Through fact‑based communication, we want to properly inform all those who are thinking about fleeing their home or migrating, or who have already set out on their way. In the end, we want to provide clarity,” Kindl emphasises. “We’re fighting the rumour mill with reliable facts.”