Refugees in Germany

Life as a newcomer: Arrival (Part 1)

Images of the refugee crisis overwhelmed Germany when 1.2 million people came to the country in 2015 and 2016. But how are these refugees today? DW takes a closer look in our series "Life as a newcomer."

Sonderzüge mit 900 Flüchtlingen (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Hitij)

Ali Alrubaye feels as if he is waiting forever. The 33-year-old Iraqi has come to Germany together with his younger brother. Back in his home country, he worked as a baker.  The security situation there wasn't the only thing driving him to Germany - he was also threatened by the mafia, he said.

Ali has been living with his brother in a shared room in a reception center in Bonn. His status is uncertain as his asylum application was rejected. He has a lawyer now and hopes for a second chance. He wants to move into his own apartment with his brother and earn some money by working in a restaurant.  There is a still a rocky journey before him.

Around 1.2 million refugees came to Germany in 2015 and 2016 to apply for asylum. Since then, the topic has dominated the media unlike any other. It's not the first time that many people have fled to Germany: in the early 1990's, hundreds of thousands of people arrived in Germany from the collapsing multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. The decades before this were marked by immigration from the former Eastern bloc states.

Zitatebox englisch Ali Alrubaye

It's uncertain how long the people who came to Germany in the past few years will stay. Many of them come from countries that will likely be shaken by civil war or an insecure security situation. Their integration in Germany will be important for all of society. 

In the autumn and winter of 2015, the focus was on accommodating the newcomers and dealing with the enormous administrative challenge. Now it is about shaping a new life for these asylum seekers in Germany and making it successful as possible. DW therefore looks at several core issues: Where do these people come from, how many of them have found a job and what does the typical school day look like?

Arrival in Germany

Looking at the figures on immigration to Germany, it's clear that the vast number of people who came in are not from Syria, but from other countries in Europe. According to the German Federal Statistics Office, around 2.1 million people came to Germany in 2015. Approximately 45 percent came from the European Union and 13 percent from other European countries who are not members of the EU. Many came from southern EU countries, leaving the economic crisis back home to look for a job in Germany.     

However, many people also sought protection in the Federal Republic. In 2015, around 476,000 people submitted in asylum application in Germany. In 2016, that number was 745,000.  Many people who arrived in 2015 couldn't submit their application in the southern German city of Nüremberg until 2016 because the German Office for Migration and Refugees had been overburdened. This means that although fewer people came in 2016, the number of applications submitted was considerably higher than the previous year.

Infografik zum Schwerpunkt InfoMigrants Thema 1 Grafik 1 Anzahl Flüchtlinge ENG

This year the number has declined significantly: only 76,000 asylum applications were submitted by April 2017. This is markedly less than in previous years. Reports from the German government suggest this is due to the EU-Turkey agreement and the closure of the Balkan Route. Yet, at the end of December, the BAMF still had around 430,000 unsuccessful applications, which will also affect figures.

In 2016, most of those searching for protection came from Syria. The second and third largest groups came from Afghanistan and Iraq. However, protection rates among the various nationalities are different. While Syrians are often granted asylum, those from Afghanistan have been dealt a much worse hand - although experts and opposition politicians believe the security situation has deteriorated there. Only every second Afghan is protected. According to German activist group Pro Asyl, more than a third of the asylum seekers are female. This organization claims that it's not true that only "young, single men" set off on the journey to Europe.

Infografik zum Schwerpunkt InfoMigrants Thema 1 Grafik 3 Herkunftsländer ENG

Although the term is often used as a synonym in everyday speech, the term refugee actually only applies to those who receive protection. But not every asylum seeker will eventually be given asylum. According to the German ministry of the Interior, about 54,000 people are set to be deported of those living here. Around 153,000 people are "tolerated to stay" in Germany, which means their deportation has been suspended. 

Infografik zum Schwerpunkt InfoMigrants Thema 1 Grafik 2 Einstufung Flüchtlinge ENG

About half a million people's applications are still in process and they don't know whether they can or cannot stay in Germany. Only around 600,000 people are protected here based on the German Basic Law, the Geneva Refugee Convention or as a war refugee. For them, a new life in Germany begins.          

Read part 2 here: Learning German
Read part 3 here: Education
Read part 4 here: Finding work
Read part 5 here: Who can stay?

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