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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Easier integration

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More than 230,000 refugees from Ukraine are now registered in Germany, in fact there are probably twice as many. Those who find accommodation privately, and there are many of them, do not initially contact the authorities, who are currently overwhelmed with this anyway.

What will become of them here? Experts sought answers to these questions on Thursday in a technical discussion organized by “Media Services Integration.” Much of what made caring for and integrating refugees from the Syrian civil war difficult six or eight years ago is probably easier now. The head of the integration department of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) refers to what was created at that time. Unlike 2015, says Uta Saumweber-Meyer, his agency is on a completely different level digitally.

Last but not least, this makes it possible to support the many volunteers who are often the first contact with Germany for a large number of refugees. At that time, integration into the labor market first had to be coordinated with the Federal Employment Agency. “Now we have a regular fixed day.” And while no one knows how long the refugees will stay, all offers of help are now open to them, from language courses to work permits.

The Königstein key that closes doors

Because the EU’s mass influx directive came into force for the first time in this war, the refugees immediately have secure residency status, albeit for a limited period, and are allowed to work. Migration economist Herbert Brücker, professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin and department head of the Research Institute (IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency, points out that this would also have helped in the case of Syria: it would have decoupled the willingness to accept and costs – the host states could ease the burden on the joint coffers – the refugees could have themselves sought out the places back then where they saw the most opportunities, instead of being distributed around the area according to the “Königsteiner key”.

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An investigation by Brücker’s department found that this still has a measurable negative impact on job opportunities for Syrian refugees. Brücker’s team calculated that their employment rate would have been six percentage points higher in the economically strong states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg had they not met residency requirements.

The researcher fears that the Königstein key, which assigns refugees to federal states according to economic power and population size, could once again close some doors to them. In the meantime, it is being used again so that the metropolises do not become overloaded: Berlin and Hamburg, among others, are asking for help. Brücker’s suggestion: complement Königstein, for example, with the care infrastructure criterion. Childcare and leisure activities are particularly important for the large number of women who now come because they cannot work otherwise.

Even elderly Holocaust survivors among the refugees

Researcher Brücker also knows that there are more of these, especially in big cities, but that living space is scarce, and that the big ones will have a problem with that: “The municipalities will not like that.” long-term employment and the successful integration of refugees, which also means relief for public coffers.

Another important construction site: schools. Older people, some of whom are frail, come with the women, and many young people. Children and young people make up about half of the refugees and should go to kindergarten or school. According to a survey by the media service, eleven of the 16 countries want to set up so-called welcome classes for themselves, but schools and care centers across the country are struggling with “glaring” staff shortages, as the sociologist Juliane Karakayali of Evangelical. University of Berlin remembers.

It is unclear, says Karakayali, who will teach the welcome classes, or what they will be like. In some places this simply means temporarily separate German lessons for new students, in other places permanent separation of German students. A mistake, says the sociology professor, not only because there is a lack of staff anyway: “Separation often means stigmatization, so there are fewer opportunities to speak German with German children.” Separate classes are often permanent, she warns: “In the case of Syrian children, this often led to poor quality teaching, and we must not repeat this mistake.”

The director of the Central Office for the Welfare of Jews in Germany, Aron Schuster, points to another problem that currently occupies him and his fellow campaigners: that of the many elderly people who could be saved in Germany, or are saved. The Jewish community, says Schuster, even has to bring back from the war elderly Holocaust survivors, some of whom are bedridden, many from Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, which has been badly affected by the flight of Ukraine. The only corridor from there to Germany takes 36-48 hours.

Senior care at the limit of its possibilities

According to Schuster, anyone who has succeeded presents regulatory institutions in Germany with “extreme challenges.” Homes for the elderly and disabled are very useful, but they are at the limit of their possibilities even due to lack of staff. “And the high standards, care keys and requirements make it very difficult for many to make the last rooms available.”

Schuster called on politicians to “temporarily, I mean deliberately temporarily, refrain from these standards.” There was also a problem for the facilities: there were much fewer vaccines in Ukraine than in this country.

The language in the Jewish community, on the other hand, is not a problem: “45 percent have Ukrainian roots.” One speaks Ukrainian. Precisely for this reason, according to Schuster, German Jews are particularly affected by the war.

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