The refugee and migration situation – what German foreign policy is doing to help

17.08.2017 - Article
Overcrowded refugee boat by the Greek island Lesbos
Overcrowded refugee boat by the Greek island Lesbos© dpa/picture alliance


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:

Germany’s commitment to crisis prevention

German participation in peace missions

Humanitarian aid

Strategy for Migration and Development – Action Plan for International Migration and Refugee Policies (in German)

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