MIGRATIONGermany Set to Tackle Refugee Issues

By Sabine Kinkartz

Published 7 November 2023

Germany is reexamining its refugee policy. Since many cities are overwhelmed with the number of migrants coming in, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is under pressure to make changes.

Roughly 200 refugees arrive in Berlin every day. They are supposed to stay in an initial reception facility such as the one at the former Tegel airport only for a short time, before being relocated to accommodation elsewhere in the city. But available apartments are hard to come by, and some refugees have been stuck at Tegel for more than a year. Currently, some 4,000 people live there and a further expansion is underway to provide up to 8,000 places.

The refugee situation in the German capital is echoed in cities and municipalities all over the country. So far in 2023, 220,000 migrants have made their initial applications for asylum. And of the 1 million Ukrainian refugees from the war, more and more are now registering with the authorities to be housed by the state.

Many Municipalities Operating ‘in Emergency Mode’
Across Germany, mayors and district councils are saying they no longer know where to accommodate the refugees who are allocated to them according to a fixed distribution formula.

In October, 600 of Germany’s 11,000 municipalities took part in a survey conducted by Mediendienst Integration together with migration researchers from the University of Hildesheim. Almost 60% of them described the situation as “challenging, but [still] feasible.” But 40% percent report being “overloaded” or even said they were “in emergency mode.”

The lack of accommodation is just one factor. There’s also a shortage of administrative staff, and not enough spots in nurseries and schools, language courses and counseling services for traumatized refugees.

Mayors and district councilors tend to take a negative view of the situation: 53% said they consider their own municipality to be “overburdened.”

Miriam Marnich, the spokesperson for the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, attributes this view to growing dissatisfaction with migration policy in the population at large.

Integration is effectively no longer possible in many municipalities at the moment because resources are exhausted. In terms of personnel, but also in terms of reception capacities,” she said.

The solutions proposed by respondents to the survey include limiting immigration to ensure there are fewer people sent to their own municipality — or none at all. They have also called for more money from the federal government, and assurances for reliable long-term funding. 

Additionally, they are asking for support with accommodation, ranging from a simplification of legal procedures to an increase in social housing programs.