I receive many inquiries from citizens about my work and my topics of flight and migration. Most of them are guided by honest interest and I am also very happy to answer them. Unfortunately, there is also a loud minority that repeatedly tries to impose its racist and right-wing populist worldview on others. Of course, we must not allow that to happen. That is why I have written down and answered the most common questions here. This article serves as information on common questions, but also to argue against right-wing ideas.
1. if we save more people – won't more and more come?
Many people believe that sea rescue at the external borders must be prevented because otherwise more and more people will come to Europe. Studies but prove that the Numbers of crossings not fallingif rescue at sea is prevented. But without sea rescue, more people drown. And quite honestly: even if the many dead in the Mediterranean were a deterrent: Do we really want to let people fleeing war and terror from countries like Libya drown at Europe's borders instead of rescuing them? Rescue at sea is an obligation under international law. We cannot build European borders that are more dangerous than civil wars just so that people have to stay in war instead of finding protection.
Two, it's mostly young men who come, right?
Worldwide are as many women as men on the run. In 2020, the number of refugees in Germany has so far been 43% of asylum seekers women and 57% men. Only about 20% of the first-time asylum applicants are young men between 15 and 34.
The fact that overall slightly more men than women flee to Europe has various reasons: Many families can only afford the flight for one person. Women are exposed to the danger of being abducted or raped during the flight. For this reason, family fathers often flee alone and then try to legally catch up with their wives and children. Since family reunification is now severely restricted, more women and children have to flee along life-threatening escape routes. In addition, men sometimes have special reasons for fleeing, such as military service for a dictator who is fighting against his own people. The fact that threatened military service in such situations is a reason for flight was recently confirmed by the European Court of Justice in a decision.
3. are these even real refugees or just economic migrants coming to us?
Most refugees in Germany come from the war zones Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea. They are not economic refugees. After the examination of the content more than half of the asylum seekers in Germany a positive decision. No one embarks lightly on a life-threatening flight. You only get asylum if you are politically persecuted. So not every person who comes to Europe has a right to asylum, but every person has the right to a procedure based on the rule of law. And even if people do not receive protection status, that is still no justification for mistreating them, as is the case in the on the borders of Europe often happens.
4. do the citizens want to accept refugees at all?
87 percent said after the fire in Moria that Germany should take in people from the Greek islands. Only eleven percent are against it. 208 municipalities are willing to take in additional refugees. Several federal states have already pledged to take in more people than they would have to according to the German government's distribution key. It is a small minority of people who do not want to help refugees at all. Most say: We have room and we want to help, too. Unfortunately, however, the Federal Government is preventing this willingness to help from being put to good use. It should actually stand up for the fundamental rights of minorities, regardless of majorities. The protection of human rights is a basic condition of democracy.
5. since 2015 there have been more refugees than we can handle, right?
In 2015 and 2016, a relatively large number of people – mainly from the Syrian civil war – came to Germany and Europe. But in recent years fleeing again much less people to Europe. In the month of October 2015 alone, more people arrived than in each of 2017, 2018 or 2019, according to UN figures.
The number of asylum applications in Germany has also declined sharply in recent years. Fewer people applied for asylum in Germany in 2019 and also in 2020 than in the years before 2015. The German government stated in its 2017 coalition agreement that between 180,000 and 220,000 people a year could find refuge in Germany. But last year there were only about 140,000 new asylum applications, and this year the number will be much lower again.
I heard that the refugees don't want to work and don't learn German. Is that true?
A clear majority of refugees in Germany are in work or undergoing training. But in the Corona crisis, many refugees have lost their jobs and are particularly hard hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic, as they often work in the catering industry or other sectors that are now closed. In July 2020, 420,000 people from countries of origin of asylum were in employment. For the winter semester 2018/2019, almost 3,000 people with a refugee background have enrolled at German universities. Currently, 55,000 people from the eight most common countries of origin for asylum are also in education. The number has risen sharply in recent years. In 2019, 195,000 people took part in a so-called "German test for immigrants". 82% of the participants achieved the language level A2 or better.
Doesn't more refugees also mean more crime?
Germany has also been one of the safest countries in the world in recent years. In recent years, the number of serious crimes has continued to fall.
So why do refugees appear more frequently in crime statistics? There are many reasons for this: The statistics are often based on suspicions and not on judgments – and refugees are suspected more often. In addition, all the crimes that Germans cannot commit have to be taken out of the equation when comparing crime rates: Missing residence permits or violations of registration requirements, for example. If one considers this, it becomes clear that refugees commit crimes just as rarely as comparable social groups that have not immigrated.
8. but won't the refugees take away our jobs?
Although so many refugees came to Germany in 2015 and 2016, unemployment has continued to fall. The labour market situation is therefore not worsening as a result of immigration. Added to this: Asylum seekers are often not allowed to work while they are in an initial reception centre. They only get their work permit a few months after they have moved out. In fact, tens of thousands of apprenticeship places are unfilled in Germany and there is a shortage of labour in some regions.. That's why trade unions and employers' associations also welcome migration and advocate the rapid integration of refugees into the labour market. And last but not least: right-wing populists would have to make up their minds: Are refugees now taking away jobs, or are they all lazy and want all the welfare benefits? Sometimes prejudices are mutually exclusive.
Germany is already doing so much. Why shouldn't the other countries do something?
Worldwide there are 79.5 million people on the run. Only one in 72 refugees worldwide is in Germany. Because most people do not flee to Europe: 85% of the refugees seek protection in so-called developing countries, more than half stay within their country when fleeing. 4.2 million people are asylum seekers. A large part of the people on the run find protection in countries of the global south: Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda.
In terms of population, most refugees live in Lebanon, where they make up one-sixth of the population, followed by Jordan. And in Europe, too, Germany ranks 9th out of 27 member states in the number of first-time asylum seekers per capita last year. Behind Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, France and Slovenia.
10. Why do they all have smartphones? They can't be that poor.
What would you take with you if you had to flee? For many people on the run, smartphones are the last thing they have left. On them are memories, photos and messages from loved ones. It is their way of communicating with their families and friends. It is the navigational tool that helps them move forward. It helps them translate in a region where they can otherwise barely communicate. Not all refugees are poor. But for many who are poor, the smartphone is their only and most important possession.
11. why can't they just serve their country and fight?
Would you pick up a gun for a dictator? Would you shoot or bomb innocent people? Or would you try to escape? Surely we should be grateful to every person who doesn't pick up a gun to fight for dictators or murdering militias. And we should give those people protection. The fact that the threat of military service in such situations is a reason to flee was recently confirmed by the European Court of Justice in a ruling.
We are not to blame for all reasons for flight, but for many. For example, by supplying weapons to countries that are involved in major wars. Many refugees want to participate in the reconstruction of their countries of origin, but can only do so when the war is over. For example in a 2015 survey only 8% of the Syrian refugees stated that they wanted to stay in Germany permanently.
Twelve. We have no room, where are they all going to go?
In Germany more than 600,000 apartments are vacant. In the new federal states in particular, many people have moved away since reunification, leaving behind a spatial, but in some cases also a social void. For example, the city of Suhl in Thuringia still had 56,000 inhabitants in 1991. Today there are only about 35,000.
So we have space and we also have many people who want to help refugees. There are over 200 municipalities that want to take in additional refugees. Germany is not a boat, but a huge but aging country – without immigration we would have shrunk long ago. The willingness to accept is high – we could easily take in more people than are currently arriving. For example, the protection seekers on the camps of the Greek Aegean islands.
13. aren't the many refugees too expensive? How are we supposed to afford that?
How much should it cost us to protect a human life from war, torture and political persecution? Of course, taking in refugees or supporting the socially disadvantaged costs money. But if cohesion in society is important to us, we should rather ask ourselves: How do we want to live together? According to its own information, the federal government spent Year 2018 15.1 billion euros for refugees, but this money does not only benefit refugees. It also includes expenditures from which not only refugees benefit. For example, the federal government transferred around 870 million euros to the Länder for the expansion of childcare, which not only benefited refugee children. One billion more for social housing is also included in this sum. A large part of this sum therefore benefits us all. Studies also show that migrants pay more taxes over time than they receive in social benefits.
14. don't we need to protect our borders better?
Border controls are important above all to protect against dangers. This includes, for example, trafficking in human beings, drugs or arms smuggling. But human rights must of course also be protected at the borders. Refugees have the right to an asylum procedure based on the rule of law at the borders. Moreover, they must not be punished for crossing the border illegally if they are fleeing from a country where they are being persecuted. This is already stated in the Geneva Refugee Convention.
Unfortunately, human rights are now systematically violated at Europe's external borders. People are tortured at the Croatian border and the Greek coast guard abandons people on plastic islands in the open sea and leave them to their own devices.
In March, people were even shot at the Greek land border.
This is not only unworthy of those seeking protection, but also of Europe. Because European borders are only protected if human rights are protected at these borders.
15. if they are real refugees, why are they paying smugglers?
To get on a plane to Europe, you need a visa for the Schengen area. In many countries of the world like Syria or Afghanistan there is no possibility to get a visa. Therefore, most people can only flee to Europe with smugglers on boats. They often have to pay several thousand euros for this. Safe escape routes to Europe no longer exist for the vast majority of people. Although the number of refugees worldwide has reached a new high, the number of legal means of escape via resettlement programmes has reached a new low.
Although flying to Europe by plane would be much cheaper and safer than escaping on a rubber dinghy, for many that is out of reach. Legal ways to Europe are the most effective means against smugglers. No one puts themselves in the hands of criminals when there is a safer and cheaper option.
How much money do refugees get? Is it more than German Hartz-4 recipients get?
During the asylum procedure, a person is entitled to benefits according to the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. This is less than Hartz 4. Asylum seekers who are accommodated in an initial reception facility receive 150 euros per month for the „necessary personal needs“. This payment is often made in kind or in vouchers. When a refugee is no longer in the initial reception facility, she receives 344 euros per month. That is significantly less than Hartz 4 recipients receive. Refugees do not get more, but less. Unless they work more. But then they also pay more taxes.
17. doesn't migration have too many disadvantages for us?
If all migrants were gone tomorrow, our society would collapse. Corona has shown that in important areas such as agriculture, care or the delivery of goods, we would not manage a day without migrants. And the fact that the first vaccine against Corona was developed in Germany is also connected to this, that Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin's parents migrated to Germany.
But you don't have to defeat a global pandemic or make a lot of money to be granted a right to asylum. The right to asylum is a human right. And beyond economic aspects, migration is above all a constant that is as old as humanity itself – and has been a driving force for progress, exchange, new ideas and necessary change throughout human history. Without migration, Europe would not be populated at all. For the first humans existed on the African continent.
18. did refugees bring corona into the country?
The virus came on business travel and tourism to the country and it's been spreading like wildfire ever since. Now the virus is here, so it can no longer be brought in. Refugees are not to blame for Corona, on the contrary: due to their forced accommodation in collective housing, refugees often become victims of the pandemic themselves, because they are not allowed to no chance of distance and pandemic life is left.
19. why not take the rescued back to Libya, Tunisia or other North African countries?
There is a Study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. It clearly proves that no state in North Africa can be considered a safe haven. In particular, cooperation with Libya is legally and also morally unjustifiable.
In Libya, refugees are imprisoned in so-called "Detention Centers" (detention camps) under the worst conditions, where they are threatened with danger to life and limb. The population as well as foreign refugees and migrants suffer from crime, abductions, irregular detention, illegal executions, torture and suppression of freedom of expression by various actors due to the prevailing lawlessness. The cooperation with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard is a violation of international law.
The rescued have to be brought to Europe because none of the North African states have a functioning asylum system. For vulnerable groups, such as LGBTI or other minorities, these states are not safe. Since it is not feasible on board rescue ships to determine which territories would be safe for people and which would not, Europe cannot shirk its responsibility and must bring people to safe ports in Europe. This also applies to NGO ships.
20. Where should I donate?
There are very many organizations to donate money to. I personally am involved in the organization of LeaveNoOneBehind involved, which focus on the Greek islands and the European external borders. But in total there are hundreds of associations of Sea-Watch via the pier By Pro Asylum, that your donations help. That is why it is difficult for me to give concrete tips and advice here.