While refugee arrivals in Europe have slowed in 2016, those that have perished attempting Mediterranean crossings reached regrettable highs this year. With many choosing Germany as their intended end-destination, we at VISIONEERS need to make the community we live in a place where young people arriving from the horrors of conflict can look ahead with optimism.
In a recent article , we noted that overall refugee arrivals in Europe have declined in 2016—providing some much needed relief to stretched national humanitarian response systems, even though the proportionate burden on Germany has grown within the EU.
This decline in overall arrivals in the EU has been predominantly driven by the pronounced drop in those asylum seekers venturing the crossing from Turkey to the Greek Islands, after the closing of Balkan routes and the EU-Turkey deal this March. Most regrettably, while those venturing this Eastern Mediterranean route have declined, those attempting the much more treacherous crossing from North Africa to Italy across the Central Mediterranean have increased, with the numbers of dead/missing persons related to Mediterranean crossings in 2016 summing to 4,715 through late November, well exceeding 2015’s previous record total of 3,777—according to data from the IOM. Recently, we’ve seen instances in which more than 6,000 asylum seekers have been saved in a single day in rescue missions, alongside many who were not as fortunate.
Of those that reached Germany, the national composition of these individuals has changed. Similar to the composition across the EU, citizens of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq remain the three largest groups applying for asylum in Germany. However, as shown in Chart 1, the relative mix between these groups has somewhat shifted in recent months, with an increasing share of asylum applicants coming from Afghanistan, as the numbers of Syrian applicants reached an apex this February. Since June, 21% of all first time asylum seekers in Germany have held Afghani citizenship, compared with only 7% in 2015.
Chart 1. The Composition of Applicants Has Shifted Recently
So, why have many refugees chosen Germany as their intended destination?
According to a new study from the German Institute for Economic Research, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Institute for Employment Research, by far the most frequently cited reason with over 70% of respondents amongst a sample of 2,300 asylum seekers was Germany’s respect for human rights—tied to the nation’s reputation for tolerance towards those fleeing conflict and deprivation. In addition, over 40% of respondents noted Germany’s education system and the feeling of welcome in this nation.
However, the challenges after arrival should not be understated. Only 58% of refugees have had 10 or more years of schooling, compared to 88% among the general German populace. Moreover, a complicating factor for many is that trade was commonly learned on-the-job in their home nations, rather than with formal qualifications. Speaking little or no German on arrival, and lacking formal qualifications, many are locked out of German trades where these are general prerequisites.
At VISIONEERS, we hope to advance talented young people of refugee and disadvantaged backgrounds and give them a voice in their new communities. We fight to bolster integration—offering German language instruction, support in their educational and professional careers and making them at home to the extent possible. Recognizing the horrors of the crises abroad and peril faced by many in coming to Europe, we hope to make Berlin the hopeful place that these men, women and children fought to reach, and a place where they can look ahead to their own futures with optimism.