Can you compare the refugee crisis of 2015 with today?

Can you compare the refugee crisis of 2015 with today?
Can you compare the refugee crisis of 2015 with today?

KHow can one compare the refugee crisis of 2015 with today’s situation? “2015” says everything and nothing. It is true that the number of people seeking protection is enormous. One indication of this is that in the first half of 2022 alone, more immigrants were registered from Ukraine than from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq combined in 2015/16, according to a special analysis by the Federal Statistical Office for the FAZ.

For the chairwoman of the Advisory Council on Integration and Migration, the numbers don’t say much. “A meaningful comparison includes more than the bare figures,” says Petra Bendel. So it is necessary to ask how the refugee access took place then and now, how orderly or disorderly, predictable or unpredictable. Then it should be considered how long people can or must stay with us, i.e. whether they receive temporary or permanent protection status and how quickly that happens. Finally, it should be asked which legal, administrative and social tasks and consequences the various escape routes require.

Even the bare figures require interpretation. In 2015/16, it was mainly asylum seekers who came. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, do not appear in the asylum statistics because, according to Section 24 of the Residence Act, they enjoy humanitarian protection, receive social benefits and are allowed to work without an asylum procedure. By October this year, 181,600 asylum applications had been made. In 2015/16 it was 1.2 million. For a comparison, one would have to look at how the number of people seeking protection, including asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees, has developed up to the present day. However, current figures are not yet available.

An approximation emerges if one adds up the immigration from the important countries of origin Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq during the refugee summer with the immigration from the Ukraine. In 2015/16 there were a total of around 811,662 people and from 2022 to August 1,025,245. The number from the central register of foreigners is often mentioned, that is the much-cited one million Ukrainians. The migration researcher Bendel reminds that it is not clear how many traveled on or returned to their country. One could also count how many Ukrainians enjoy protection status. It might be more meaningful to look at the number of those applying for subsistence benefits. According to the employment agency, that was 604,000 people in mid-October.

A major difference from 2015 relates to the dynamics and speed of immigration. The refugee summer was chaotic. When the news spread that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) was temporarily allowing unregistered Syrians into the country, it attracted even more people. Chancellor Angela Merkel said we can do it. On the night of September 5, thousands marched from Budapest, where they had been stuck for days, on the autobahn towards Germany. In a late-night phone call, Merkel decided to take the refugees to Germany on trains. Tens of thousands entered uncontrolled.

Asylum applications were piling up in the BAMF, and the municipalities needed gyms and containers for accommodation. At first, many in the train stations applauded; after sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve, the mood changed. Today the situation is different. Instead of a German going it alone, today there is a unanimous EU decision to activate the mass influx directive, humanitarian protection is granted according to paragraph 24, the BAMF is relieved, 2015 will not be repeated here.

If anyone has a right to equate then and now, it’s the municipalities. The general manager of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, told the FAZ: “As with the reception of refugees in 2015/2016, the reception, accommodation and integration of refugees is currently a major challenge for cities and municipalities.”

Tried and tested structures exist in the communities, but the professionally developed accommodation structures and a large part of the communal accommodations are still partly occupied by asylum seekers and refugees from the resettlement program and Afghan local workers. “And compared to 2015/2016, the current situation is facing worse framework conditions.” The employees are exhausted after two years of the pandemic. Due to the energy and economic crisis, the financial resources of the municipalities are limited. “Against this background, many municipalities are overwhelmed by the current situation.”

The job center pays standard benefits for Ukrainians and the costs for accommodation and heating; however, the municipality has to contribute around 25 percent to the latter. Ukrainians without a home are considered homeless, municipalities have to accommodate them, sometimes in gyms. The municipality pays, the state reimburses a proportion that varies from state to state. The municipalities also have to spend a lot on integration, although the BAMF does a lot here. There are also hidden costs.

Unlike in 2015, daycare and school places are needed from the start. According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the federal government is also supporting states and municipalities with 3.5 billion euros this year and 1.5 billion euros in 2023. In addition, the federal government has promised special compensation to the states that make significant advance payments in distribution logistics; this is still being negotiated. Ukrainians are still mostly welcomed with open arms. But how do parents react if more come in winter and the waiting list for the day care center gets longer? Mayors can only hope that the mood will not change again.

The article is in German

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