One Million Refugees: What Is Germany’s Plan?

One Million Refugees

What Is Germany’s Plan?

Wir schaffen das—we can handle it, said chancellor Angela Merkel about the influx of refugees in August 2015. The big question is how. Therefore The German Gist gives an overview of what German politicians suggest should be done now.

Syrian Refugees

Throughout 2015, Germans have been confronted with a steadily growing number. In May, Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière said this year 450,000 refugees would come. Four months later, in August, the Ministry of the Interior had to significantly increase this number: 800,000 people were expected. In December, it is reported that this year’s refugee count will be over one million. That is four times as many as in 2014.

Indubitably, a number as high as this one raises questions, especially: How do politicians plan to handle this influx?

The Arrival

Between two and ten thousand new people have arrived in Germany daily over the last few months—a challenge for the authorities, since no one really knows who has entered Germany and exactly how many people have not registered yet. Therefore keeping track of the refugees while making registration more efficient has priority. This year, processing an asylum application has taken the overworked authorities 5.2 months on average.

According to Minister of the Interior de Maizière this is about to change. He has introduced a new refugee ID card. The conservative newspaper FAZ explains what is supposed to improve with the new document:


A refugee arrives in a Bavarian town and he is directed to a tent at the station forecourt. There he can not only eat, drink, and swaddle his child, he also has to say what his name is, where he is from and how old he is. His picture is taken and, with the help of a scanner, his finger prints are saved. Awesome, everything is perfectly organized as soon as the Syrian has stepped into Germany! My foot! If things go badly, he has to have his fingerprints taken three more times after that and his personal information just as many times. Maybe in primary processing, at the foreigners’ office, or at the police.

[In order to remove this inefficiency] a so-called “arrival verification” (Ankunftsnachweis), which is printed upon arrival, is supposed to help. The document is a kind of ID card with which a refugee on the one hand can prove that he already registered. The authorities on the other hand can verify whether the person is at the refugee hostel that he was assigned to or whether he has moved, unauthorized, to a different location. Should the latter be the case, he won’t receive subsidies.

(…) Da kommt also ein Flüchtling am Bahnhof einer bayerischen Stadt an und wird in ein Zelt auf dem Bahnhofsvorplatz geführt. Dort kann er nicht nur essen, trinken und sein Kind wickeln, sondern muss sagen, wie er heißt, wo er herkommt und wie alt er ist. Er wird fotografiert und muss mittels eines Scanners seine Fingerabdrücke hinterlassen. Super, alles perfekt organisiert, kaum dass der Syrer deutschen Boden betreten hat! Von wegen: Wenn es dumm läuft, muss er anschließend noch dreimal seine Fingerabdrücke hinterlassen und ebenso oft seine persönlichen Daten, sei es in einer Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung, beim Ausländeramt oder bei der Polizei.

(…) Dabei soll auch ein sogenannter Ankunftsnachweis helfen, der bei der Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung für ihn ausgedruckt wird. Das Dokument ist eine Art Ausweis, mit dem der Flüchtling erstens nachweisen kann, dass er bereits registriert wurde. Zweitens können die Behörden feststellen, ob er an dem Ort in der Aufnahmeeinrichtung ist, die ihm zugewiesen wurde, oder ob er sich eigenmächtig an einen anderen Ort begeben hat. Ist Letzteres der Fall, so bekommt er keine staatlichen Leistungen.

The parliament has accepted the Minister’s proposal and the new ID card is supposed to become reality, with the miscommunication between authorities becoming history at the beginning of 2016. Additionally, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees wants to employ four thousand more people to speed up registration.

After the Arival

Benefits refugees could lose by unauthorized relocation include free German classes for all those registered. For example, a new and swiftly funded state project has provided basic German for almost 90,000 refugees. The Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche describes the experiences of that undertaking:


“I am positively surprised about the large number of refugees, especially young refugees, who want to learn this country’s language in our classes.” said Raimund Becker, management level of the federal unemployment agency. The great interest shows “the refugees’ high motivation to learn German and to integrate. No one wants to be an onlooker or to indulge in doing nothing.”

The governing board of the federal unemployment agency had decided in October to use a financial reserve to finance limited-time language classes for refugees who would probably stay in Germany permanently and had not taken part in another class yet. The expenses total up to a maximum of 120 million Euro.

(…) “Ich bin im Positiven überrascht über die große Zahl an Flüchtlingen und insbesondere jungen Flüchtlingen, die über unsere Kurse die Landessprache erlernen möchten”, sagte Raimund Becker, Vorstandsmitglied der BA. Das große Interesse zeige “die hohe Motivation der Flüchtlinge, Deutsch zu lernen und sich integrieren zu wollen. Keiner will Zaungast sein oder sich im Nichtstun ergehen.”

(…) Der Verwaltungsrat der BA hatte Anfang Oktober beschlossen, aus einer Haushaltsreserve zeitlich begrenzt Sprachkurse für Flüchtlinge zu fördern, die wahrscheinlich dauerhaft in Deutschland bleiben und noch nicht an einem Kurs … teilgenommen haben. (…)Die Kosten belaufen sich auf bis zu 120 Millionen Euro. (…)

However, language barriers aren’t the only thing keeping German politicians occupied. Cultural gaps concern some of them as well. Julia Klöckner, vice chairwoman of Angela Merkel’s party CDU has urged for a ban on burqas. Quoted by the news site Der Westen, she said:


”I still think that full face veils don’t belong on our street and that they should be forbidden.” The burqa is a hindrance for integration and is in conflict with women’s rights. “Full face veils are a manifestation of disintegration”.

„Ich bin nach wie vor der Meinung, dass Vollverschleierung nicht in unsere Straßen gehört und wir das verbieten sollten“ (…) Die Burka sei ein Integrationshemmnis und widerspreche Frauenrechten. „Eine Vollverschleierung ist die Manifestation der Desintegration“

Although it has earned her support by some CDU members, it is unlikely that this request will become a law. In contrast to France, where wearing a burqa in public could result in a fine of 164 Euros, the German constitutional court has reversed a ruling from 2013 that banned school teachers from wearing veils at work, leaving it up to the teacher to decide which religious symbol he or she would like to display.

Apart from the legal implications, her proposal has unsettled other politicians. “One cannot ban everything that is not to one’s taste” was Thomas de Maizière’s response. Among netizens her request lead to mockery:

I would like to start an initiative for the long overdue #TieBan! #HeadScarfBan #BurqaBan

Beyond that, netizens don’t believe that this is the right step for integration. Member of the Green Party, Jochen Detscher, tweeted:

How many women wearing burqas have you seen in Germany? Request for a #BurkaBan is always ignorant populism!

Long-term Stay

However this debate about a burqa ban may end, for a successful integration of these many new people Germany will have to do whole lot more. The need to create job opportunities is one example. One of the big concerns at the moment is that most refugees will stay unemployed. For that reason employers and some politicians are asking to pay less than the 8.50 €/hour minimum wage for refugees in response to Angela Merkel’s request to offer more internships.

What sparked criticism is that longtime unemployed Germans can also be paid under minimum wage in the first year in order to make it more likely for them to be hired. Some fear that this might cause more right wing radicalization since according to a study, 80 percent of German neo-Nazis are male, uneducated and unemployed. They then would be in direct competition with a group that they say takes “German” jobs.

Therefore many netizens react like gehirnstein:


[That’s] societal dynamite. Two of the most precarious demographic groups are being played against each other.

Sozialer Sprengstoff; (…) hier werden die zwei prekärsten Bevölkerungsgruppen gegeneinander ausgespielt.

In some parts of Germany another measure to take care of refugees is the so called “Gesundheitskarte” (Health Card) with which refugees have access to free medical health care funded by tax money.

Given the number of people, all this still will not be enough, say some experts. In regards to the Paris terror, where most of the attackers were born and raised in France, the German authorities fear that a failed integration policy will create tomorrow’s terrorists. However, the professor Ulrich Herbert concludes that despite the numerous challenges, Germany has a good prospect:


“We already have problems. For example with forced marriage, and also with radicalized Muslims. That apparently more than 1,000 IS fighters come from Germany is alarming.”

On the other hand, says Herbert, Germany has more than 50 years of experience dealing with integration difficulties and it can benefit from that. “If you consider that 20 percent of the German population have an immigrant background, there are surprisingly few conflicts, especially in comparison with other countries.

(…)”Es gibt schon jetzt Probleme – zum Beispiel mit Zwangsheiraten, auch mit radikalisierten Muslimen (…) Dass offenbar mehr als 1000 Kämpfer des Islamischen Staates aus Deutschland kommen, ist alarmierend.”

Andererseits, sagt Herbert, habe Deutschland auch seit mehr als 50 Jahren Erfahrung im Umgang mit Integrationsproblemen und könne davon profitieren. “Wenn man bedenkt, dass 20 Prozent der Bevölkerung in Deutschland einen Migrationshintergrund haben, gibt es ja erstaunlich wenige Konflikte, auch im Vergleich zu anderen Ländern.”(…)


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