Revisiting Merkel’s refugee pledge: Has Germany ‘managed it?’

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BERLIN — At the peak of the refugee disaster in the summertime of 2015, Angela Merkel uttered what would change into essentially the most memorable three phrases of her 16-year chancellorship: Wir schaffen das — we will handle it.

As Merkel packs up her workplace and heads off to new pastures this week, the query of how properly Germany has truly managed the best problem of her tenure continues to linger. 

Asked not too long ago in one of many few interviews she gave earlier than leaving workplace whether or not Germany had managed the refugee problem, Merkel informed Deutsche Welle, the state-funded German broadcaster, that she believed her prediction had been correct. 

“Yes, we managed it,” Merkel said, whereas noting there had been many challenges alongside the way in which. “Overall, we’ve seen wonderful examples of human success stories.”  

Of the greater than 5 million individuals who sought asylum within the EU from 2015 to 2020, almost 40 p.c did so in Germany, making the nation by far the most important European vacation spot for refugees.  

Numbers apart, measuring success on the refugee entrance is a fraught train. Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) collects a variety of knowledge, comparable to what number of asylum seekers have discovered work and what number of are in coaching applications. The statistics on these fronts are encouraging, with greater than half of the refugees in fastened employment after 5 years, for instance. 

What drives Germany’s political debate on refugees, nonetheless, is a vaguer take a look at — “integration.” 

Defining how properly built-in a refugee is may be subsequent to unimaginable as a result of the factors for what constitutes success are extremely subjective.  

That’s why as a substitute of asking Germans in the event that they felt that they had met Merkel’s problem and “managed it,” POLITICO determined to ask refugees themselves.

What follows are excerpts of interviews carried out with refugees in Berlin in latest weeks. 

Yerusalem G., 31

Yerusalem arrived in Germany in 2015 from Eritrea. 

A mom of two sons, Yerusalem says she was compelled to go away behind her kids, aged 11 and 9. They later traveled to Ethiopia as soon as their mom had obtained asylum in Germany and utilized for household reunification, as a result of Ethiopia has a German embassy, in contrast to Eritrea. The kids now await phrase in Addis Ababa on whether or not they are often united with their mom — a course of that may take years due to the large case backlog in Germany. 

Her kids sit in a rental residence with a nanny who takes care of them, whereas Yerusalem works in Germany to pay these payments. She’s apprehensive about her kids’s security in Ethiopia, particularly amid the continued bloody civil warfare.

Yerusalem presently works in a restaurant and in an Amazon packaging middle. She’s additionally in coaching to change into a receptionist. 

“I work the entire time in order to become independent of the state so that I can care for my children. Even though I’ve been recognized as a refugee and have a legal right to bring my family, it hasn’t happened yet,” she stated.

“Life is very tough and sometimes meaningless because I can’t live my life how I envisioned it. I thought I could come here and start anew with my children and take full control of my life.” 

Yerusalem added: “I’ve been unable to enjoy my children’s childhood because I had to leave them behind. When I see other mothers with their children, it makes me very sad. I still haven’t fully settled in here, but hopefully, I will when my children come.”

Amane S., 38

Amane arrived alone in Germany in 2016 from Iran.

After spending two and a half years in a refugee shelter for ladies, Amane moved to an residence in West Berlin. She is coaching to work in an workplace. 

“To live in Germany is really quite difficult. Anyone who has a good life in their own country should stay there. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone flee,” she stated.

“It’s nonetheless onerous for me however not as onerous because it was at first. It’s notably onerous to be a lady in a rustic you don’t know. You have the sensation you may’t belief anybody.

“The largest challenges are the language and discovering an residence — but in addition melancholy, loneliness and homesickness.

“At the second, I’ve contact with Germans 3 times every week in reference to my coaching. That’s good as a result of they’re very pleasant, however sadly, most others should not.

“I’ve tried for five years to settle in Germany and every day it gets a little better but I have to keep trying.” 

Mehdi Hosseini, 29 

An Afghan native, Hosseini grew up in Iran, the place he studied political science. He arrived in Germany in 2015, adopted by his three sisters, brother and mom two years later.

A warehouse employee, Hosseini — who lives in Berlin’s outskirts — rises at 3 a.m. for the early shift after which attends German class within the afternoon. In 2017, he transformed to Christianity. Like many refugees, he says he’s had problem assembly Germans. 

“I’ve been here for almost seven years, but it’s just for the past two years that I’ve started to feel like I’ve really arrived,” he stated.

“In 2015-2016, the state of affairs for refugees in Germany was higher and other people had been extra open. It’s change into worse. People say that refugees are lazy, that they don’t work.

“My hope is to live a quiet life, to have a job, an apartment and time to spend with friends.”

Matthew Karnitschnig contributed reporting.

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