Syrian refugees in Germany
Between 2015 and 2016, Germany accepted over one million refugees, many of whom came from Syria. Some Syrian refugees in Germany, however, have found themselves unsatisfied with their lives in the European nation. The main reasons for this are:

  • Social isolation and discrimination
  • Lack of education and employment opportunities
  • Policies in regard to how long asylum seekers are approved to stay and where they can live
  • Germany’s Family Reunification Policy, which has left many Syrian families unable to reunite.

These conditions have prompted some refugees to risk the illegal and dangerous journey back to Turkey in the hopes of reuniting with their loved ones.

In the text below four above mentioned reasons for the dissatisfaction of refugees will be discussed.

Social Isolation and Discrimination

Syrian refugees sometimes arrive in Germany after an arduous journey only to find that the opportunities for them are severely limited by discrimination. Germany’s decision to allow such a large number of refugees enter the nation has been met with disapproval and resistance, as some Germans do not want refugees in the nation. One German volunteer who worked with refugee families stated that many people were not nice to the refugees she worked with and that they treated her with contempt for helping them.

This discrimination causes a lack of social connections, which exacerbates the poor mental health of refugees, many of whom suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Suicides among refugee youth in Germany have increased due to their failure to create new social ties.

Lack of Opportunities

Syrian refugees in Germany often have difficulties to find employment and to access educational opportunities, as a result of prejudices. In the Atlantic Council article, Yassir, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Germany in 2015, explained that he has been unable to find work for over two years. He learned to speak German quickly after his arrival, but, according to him temp agencies, restaurants, cafes, workshops, all “shut their doors in his face”. According to the Federal Labor Agency, only 17 percent of refugees in Germany are employed.

Education is also an issue, with only 45 percent of Syrian refugees in Germany possessing a school certificate. Shortly after coming to Germany, 20-year-old Mahmoud realized that his educational endeavors could not be achieved in the European nation due to “systematic hurdles imposed by the authorities”, according to The Atlantic Council. He made the decision to resettle in Turkey, where he was able to receive an academic scholarship from the engineering department of Aydin University in Istanbul.

Policies on Refugee Status and the Integration Law

German practices in regards to who is granted full refugee status have also been stressful for many refugees. Initially, almost all Syrian refugees taken in by Germany were granted full refugee status, however, beginning in March 2016, Germany began granting more and more Syrian refugees subsidiary protection instead, which needs to be renewed annually. In 2016, 41 percent of Syrian refugees were given subsidiary protection, and in 2017 this number increased to 55 percent. Syrians with subsidiary protection, many of whom may be happy living in Germany, live in fear of not being accepted when they apply for renewal.

Additionally, German policies on choosing where refugees are placed in the nation cause instability and uncertainty for many refugee families. Germany’s 2016 Integration Law forces refugees to live in states assigned by the government, often without consideration of where the rest of their family is located.

According to U.N. Discussion paper, Zein lived in Germany from 2014, and though her husband arrived in the country in 2015, it was six months before he was granted permission to settle in the same location as her. Similarly, Siwar came to Germany a year and a half after her husband and was sent to a shelter located 100 kilometers away from where he lived, rather than with him.

Germany’s Family Reunification Policy

Arguably the most significant problem for Syrian refugees in Germany, as well as the main reason some have made the decision to illegally return to Turkey, is Germany’s Family Reunification Policy. In March 2016, Germany stopped allowing refugees with subsidiary protection to apply for family reunification. Originally they stated that this would be in effect until March 2018, but then further extended it to July 2018.

According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, as of April 2018, approximately 4,000 Syrian refugees had been reported missing, many of whom could have traveled to Turkey. It is likely that this number is significantly higher. Many Syrians in Germany have family members stuck in Turkey and are willing to risk the dangerous and illegal journey back to Turkey in order to be reunited with them. According to Deutsche Welle, refugees have stated that they would “rather die together than live apart”.

Although family reunification applications are being accepted as of July 2018, a 1,000 person limit on entries per month has been added to prevent an extreme influx of refugees. As of early August, 34,000 family reunification requests had already been submitted, with hundreds of thousands expected.

The future of Syrian refugees in Germany, as well as in other parts of the world, is still undetermined. Countries, including Germany, have made an incredible impact by accepting such a large number of refugees over the past few years. Germany’s reinstatement of family reunification, even with the monthly limit, will begin to bring Syrian families back together and hopefully improve the status of refugees in the nation.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr