Syrian Refugee Crisis in Germany: A Brief Overview

by Kelly Beach in Mockern, Germany

Few international topics have received as much attention in the past months as the Syrian refugee situation. The crisis in Syria reached a boiling point in 2011, as religious and ethnic factions took arms against each other and the government in a devastating civil war. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian citizens were caught in the middle and forced to flee. Many refugees headed for nearby countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. However, the infrastructure in these countries was hardly sufficient to contain the millions of displaced peoples, and many looked towards Europe in hope of gaining entrance. In 2015 alone, over 1 million refugees applied for asylum.[1] As the masses of desperate people flocked to Europe, the continent’s reaction was equally as disjointed and chaotic. Many countries accepted few or no refugees whatsoever, but Germany, with its large size and economy chose a different tack.

In 2015, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, braved the flood of desperate families and opened Germany’s gates in a concerned act of humanitarian relief. Germany initially expected to accept around 450,000 people, though this quickly expanded to 800,000 as the crisis grew larger.[2] The opinions of German citizens divided about their leader’s decision, and public support waned as the summer of 2015 dragged on.[3] A year later, the people’s divided sentiment show clearly in the form of graffiti, stickers, and signs throughout cities across the country. Many in the world praised Germany for its efforts, but the massive influx has been overwhelming. Thousands of refugees still do not have official documents, leaving their status and future uncertain.

Though most refugees in Europe are from Syria, there are also thousands of citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, who likewise have fled to escape the rampant violence in their countries.[4] Among European nations, Germany has taken in by far the most applications from refugee families and has already accepted over a million people.[5] This seems mainly do to their streamlined application system, stable economy, political and religious freedoms, and the possessing the political will to make it happen.

As a student in Germany, I have had the opportunity to talk to a Syrian citizen who left Damascus in late 2015 and arrived in Germany in hopes that he could one day return to his country. He prefaced his story by stating that he only spoke for himself and not on behalf of any other refugees, and clarified that his opinions are entirely his own. He felt sorry for the German people for having to deal with so many refugees arriving so suddenly. Though he is learning German, he wishes to return to Syria as soon as it is safe. When asked about his homeland and the tragic turn of events that led him to flee the country of his birth, he briefly explained his story, but no longer wished to discuss the topic. The suffering of Syria appears to be ongoing, even in the promised land of Germany.

Today, Syria is still a place where conflict rages on, and despite numerous international initiatives, there has been little progress to end the violence. Syrians remain the highest refugee population in the world and the largest since World War Two.[6] While Germany and other European nations have chosen to accommodate a portion of the global refugee population, many governments around the world have come to power or solidified their power encouraging a wave of anti-refugee sentiment. As the Christmas season of 2016 has passed and children in some countries pretended to be a wandering Middle Eastern couple in search of a room, there remains no shortage of current refugees trying to find a safe place for the new year.

[1] “Moving Europe Beyond Crisis.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed November 11, 2016. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/moving-europe-beyond-crisis?gclid=CjwKEAiAgavBBRCA7ZbggrLSkUcSJACWDexARdAXW3xuHtnpGQuVXFbd7KCPiNXD4ozwFJZTcIf5ABoCiwzw_wcB.

“Migrant Crisis: Migration to Europe Explained in Seven Charts.” BBC News. March 4, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911.

“Germany’s Refugee Crisis.” – Al Jazeera English. March 3, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2016/03/germany-refugee-crisis-160302135618356.html.

[2] Hildebrandt, Tina, and Bernd Ulrich. “Angela Merkel: Im Auge Des Orkans.” ZEIT ONLINE. September 20, 2015. Accessed May 4, 2016. http://www.zeit.de/2015/38/angela-merkel-fluechtlinge-krisenkanzlerin.

[3] Dearden, Lizzie. “Refugee Crisis: From Border Controls to Cash Seizures, How Germany Turned Its Back on Refugees.” The Independent. January 23, 2016. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-crisis-germany-turning-its-back-on-asylum-seekers-with-border-controls-cash-seizures-and-a6829801.html.

“Germany’s Refugee Crisis.” – Al Jazeera English. March 3, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2016/03/germany-refugee-crisis-160302135618356.html.

[4] News, BBC. “Migrant Crisis: Migration to Europe Explained in Seven Charts.” BBC News. March 4, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911.

[5] “Germany’s Refugee Crisis.” – Al Jazeera English.

[6] “Moving Europe Beyond Crisis.” Migration Policy Institute. Accessed November 11, 2016. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/moving-europe-beyond-crisis?gclid=CjwKEAiAgavBBRCA7ZbggrLSkUcSJACWDexARdAXW3xuHtnpGQuVXFbd7KCPiNXD4ozwFJZTcIf5ABoCiwzw_wcB.

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