Desperation for Relief Growing on Both Sides of Refugee Crisis

Hannah Matangos

Hannah Matangos was a research intern at AICGS for the spring semester of 2016.

As the Syrian refugee crisis continues, Germany is feeling the pressure from an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants.  On 3 February, Germany introduced a new bill that will reduce public welfare benefits in order to dissuade refugees from entering the country.  Seeking to reduce the migrant influx, Germany recently changed the status of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia to “safe,” making it harder for citizens from these countries to be granted refugee status.  The appeals process for rejected applicants will also be cut to a maximum of three weeks, allowing for faster deportations.

Thousands of migrants have already decided to voluntarily return to Syria, and the International Organization for Migration alone accommodated 37,220 people who returned home in 2015.  A major reason for migrants’ return has been the difficulty they face entering the labor market without sufficient German language skills.

Although German officials have noted a decrease in the number of migrants to Germany, this has likely been due to winter weather concerns.  Germany, despite efforts to curb the number of immigrants, still received 91,000 new arrivals in January alone.  The German government has struggled to keep up with the influx, hiring more workers and quickening the asylum process; however, about 370,000 asylum applications have yet to be processed while between 300,000 to 400,000 new arrivals have yet to apply.

Meanwhile, the already dire conditions of the Syrian refugee crisis are worsening.  The “Supporting Syria and the Region” conference was held in London last week, attended by over 70 heads of state, the United Nations Secretary General, and heads of international organizations, NGOs, and private companies, all pledging their support for those affected.

The London conference sought to increase international contributions to the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) and the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which amounted to $7.73 billion beginning this January.

The 3RP seeks to aid about 4.7 million refugees in neighboring countries by the end of 2016, plus 4 million people in communities hosting refugees.  In addition, the plan will continue to support 13.5 million internally-displaced persons within Syria itself.  Originally launched in 2014, the 3RP has seen the worsening of conditions in Syria and the widening of the gap between mass humanitarian needs and available humanitarian aid.

Attendees also set goals for education and economic opportunities in order to improve the lives of Syrian refugees and people in neighboring countries affected by the Syrian conflict’s spillover.  Focusing partially on the long term, the conference sought to ensure the international community would be prepared to support a coordinated stabilization effort in Syria and affected regions.

Having met with other leaders at the London conference, German chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara next Monday to meet with Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, seeking to reduce immigration to Europe and placate rising tensions thereof in Germany’s coalition government.  In November, Turkey agreed to crack down on smuggling networks and irregular migration to Western Europe, with the European Union pledging €3 billion to improve the conditions of refugees in Syria in return.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.