The number of refugees in Germany rose in the past year and will continue to rise - but not only here. Across the world, more than 65 million people have fled their homes, three quarters of them find refuge in their home country or in another developing country.
For many decades, in its fight against hunger and poverty, Welthungerhilfe has been working closely in many of these countries with refugees in different stages of flight. At present, the organisation the organisation supports, among others, approximately 330,000 internally displaced persons in South Sudan and about the same number of people in Syria, Northern Iraq and Turkey. On the basis of these practical experiences of many years and for humanitarian reasons, Welthungerhilfe is campaigning for changes in the handling of refugees - and in German and European migration and development policy in general.
What does it mean to be a refugee? - Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman explain.
About 60 million people around the globe have been forced to leave their homes to escape war, violence and persecution. The majority have become Internally Displaced Persons, meaning they fled their homes but are still in their own countries. Others, referred to as refugees, sought shelter outside their own country. But what does that term really mean? Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman explain.
1. Fight the causes of flight, not just the symptoms
The majority of people are fleeing from wars, violence or persecution, from acute need or because of a lack of economic prospects - they have lost hope of finding a future for themselves and their families in their homeland. The solutions often lie in the countries of origin, but it is also possible to do something from outside against these causes of flight, even if not overnight.
With political and diplomatic means, violent conflicts can be prevented, peaceful solutions and political and economic stability promoted, forces aiming for peace can be supported and fewer weapons exported. An ambitious climate policy can also contribute in the long-term to ensuring that livelihoods in poor countries do not worsen further. Based on its project experience, Welthungerhilfe knows: only the creation of concrete local prospects and the associated hope for better living conditions will keep people in their home country.
2. Support the countries of origin and their neighbouring states
Worldwide, around nine in ten refugees are accommodated in their home countries and in other developing countries. A large part of the global refugee movements occurs in Asia and Africa. Only a small, but increasing, proportion of refugees has arrived in Europe. The states outside of the EU, which have taken in many refugees, need additional support. On the one hand, through humanitarian assistance, and on the other hand, the capacities of those particularly affected countries must be strengthened for the admission and provision of refugees.
In terms of provision, it is not just a matter of accommodation and food, but also of ongoing offerings, such as education and training and access to the job market. In particular, where people have to stay for months or years in refugee camps, it is a case of preventing a "lost generation" of refugees. Humanitarian assistance and development cooperation urgently need new, innovative approaches here for the linking of their different approaches, which go beyond the current funding guidelines. Wherever possible, such approaches would also make the governments of the countries of origin more accountable and ensure that dictators or warlords do not profit from the additional support.
3. Develop a sustainable migration approach, facilitate integration
Even without being politically persecuted in the sense of the Geneva Refugee Convention, more people will come to Germany and Europe. These migrants often have similar motives to asylum seekers: a combination of conflicts, political instability and economic uncertainty. They seek prospects for better living conditions. These migration movements will continue to increase in the coming years, including as a result of the global demographic inequality: an ageing population here, a very high proportion of young people there.
In addition, the causes of the current refugee crisis in Germany and Europe lie not only in the countries of origin, but are also due to the migration policy failures of EU countries. Therefore, in Germany and, difficult though it is, ideally across the whole European Union, we need an agreement about a migration policy approach that formulates goals and not only short-term instruments. In the EU it is not just a matter of application of equal standards in the asylum process and the provision of refugees, as well as a fair distribution of responsibilities and burdens. It is also a matter of the suspension of the failed Dublin Agreement and a reorganisation of refugee admission, including a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of admission quotas.
All experiences show that border closures for migrants do not help to reduce their numbers, because smuggler services have professionalised, there is better information available online and through social media, and the international migrant networks encourage further migration. Migration researchers point out that border closures do alter the migration routes, but not the number of migrants. According to the assertions of the researchers, the social systems of the host countries do not play an important role in the decision of a person either for or against migration.
It should not be the goal of development policy to prevent migration from developing countries to Europe. Because: Migration can provide important development contributions for the migrants themselves and for the origin and host countries.
If that is to succeed, it must be politically desired, it requires a fair balance of interests between origin and host countries as well as migrants, the rights of the migrants must be ensured, in order to prevent wage dumping, exploitation and discrimination.
Through the Flight and Migration Task Force (Arbeitsstab Flucht und Migration), German development policy should significantly expand the commitment to migration policy programmes that more strongly promote the development potentials of migration and integrate their experiences into a German and European migration approach.
Germany needs a new integration policy, which must start with the admission of refugees. Many refugees will become immigrants who wish to participate in society and who can make a significant contribution in the long-term. Therefore, after arrival, refugees should not be accommodated in refugee ghettos and should receive faster access to the job market, to education and to healthcare. In particular, the municipalities must be better equipped financially, and civil society organisations and migrant networks should be better incorporated into the integration processes.
4. Reconcile development cooperation and humanitarian assistance on flight and migration
People come to Germany and Europe for different reasons. These include conflicts, political instability and economic uncertainty. But migration movements are becoming increasingly mixed. This makes the development of political strategies more difficult. Because, despite the commonalities with regard to migration paths, there are different responsibilities. While the EU states are legally obligated to the protection of refugees, the admission of migrants lies, to a large extent, within national decision-making power. Therefore, refugees and migrants must continue to be differentiated.
In order to overcome the causes of flight and to support refugees, a significant increase in funds should be invested in the prevention of conflicts and crises. Humanitarian assistance also provides aid in acute refugee crises and should thereby pay particular attention to internal refugees (internally displaced persons), in order to facilitate their access to assistance and protection. Depending on the conflict situation, this can require great political sensitivity and can be dangerous for aid workers. Thirdly, most refugees live in cities, others in camps. They have different needs that need to be addressed. As, beyond this, displacement is generally a long-term issue, development cooperation and humanitarian assistance must occupy themselves much more with the question of how refugees can better help themselves. There is an urgent need for action on the problem, unsolved in both German and European politics, of how to better connect humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. And fourthly, there is a great need in the countries of origin to support refugees in their return and reintegration, so that the return can be understood as a new start and the beginning of the reintegration.
Migration should not be fought, but regulated appropriately. In this, development cooperation can also play an important role. If it is successful, it improves prosperity in the regions in which it is active. As rising income improves the ability for (expensive) migration, development cooperation can contribute to further migration in the short-term and only later to decreasing migration, if a certain prosperity level is reached. Last but not least, the probability of development cooperation success increases, if it first coordinates its approaches with the countries of origin and if, secondly, the donor countries coordinate better among themselves.
Migration can be connected with high risks, primarily for the migrants themselves. It can also lead to a drain of urgently needed knowledge from the countries of origin (brain drain), have negative impacts on family structures and can be a burden for the host countries. But it also brings opportunities: Migration is considered a driver of development. Development cooperation should more strongly promote circular migration and the reintegration of migrants into their home countries, reduce the social costs of migration in the origin countries through advisory services, and develop offerings for how migrant remittances can be deployed in a development promoting manner. In this way, the brain drain can become a brain gain.
Furthermore, development cooperation can create employment opportunities in the countries of origin of migrants, such as through investments in infrastructure and rural development. The promotion of domestic local or regional value creation chains, in particular in the processing of agricultural products, can lead to a significant increase in employment opportunities in rural areas. This applies particularly for African countries.
5. Prevent humanitarian disasters, create more legal immigration opportunities
The EU and its member states must do everything to prevent further humanitarian disasters at its external borders, particularly in the Mediterranean. Sea rescue is essential for this, but more legal immigration possibilities must be created for non-recognised asylum seekers and migrants, e.g. through the award of humanitarian visas or by making family reunification easier. This does not, however, absolve the governments of the countries of origin of their responsibility to a politics that is oriented towards human rights and the common good.