Ukraine: 390,000 refugees in Germany. How are you? – Politics

We can do it? So far, the question has not been asked as loudly and with a critical undertone as it was after 2015. The fact is, however, that Germany is not yet taking in as many refugees as it did in the summer of seven years, but it is already taking in an enormous number. In Baden-Württemberg alone there are now more than 84,000 refugees from Ukraine stayed. This is not far from the 100,000 people who reached the federal state in 2015 as asylum seekers. Nationwide, around 440,000 people applied for asylum for the first time in 2015 and another 720,000 in 2016, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is not possible to say exactly how many refugees from Ukraine are currently in Germany. With time officially 383 916 registered refugees from Ukraine In any case, as many people have arrived as in some years during the Balkan wars at the beginning of the 1990s, the second largest wave of refugees in Germany in the post-war period, which reached its peak in 1992. At that time, almost 440,000 displaced persons applied for asylum.

Escape to Germany: undefined
(Photo: SZ graphic: saru; Sources: Federal Statistical Office, Federal Police)

For the Ukrainians, the situation is different than for those who fled at the time. They can enter the country without a visa and are directly recognized as refugees without an asylum procedure. Therein lies the great opportunity – for them and also for Germany. Instead of being stuck in asylum procedures for years and being forced into community accommodation, these people can live where they want from day one, send their children to school, look for work – and settle down.

All good, so? The simultaneous influx of so many people remains a feat of strength. An overview of current problems and how they could be solved.

Preferably in the cities

They had to leave in a hurry, but many of the Ukrainians who fled their homeland shortly after the war began knew exactly where to go. 82 percent of those who arrived in Germany actually wanted to go to Germany specifically. More than every second (the majority are women) even in the place where they were staying at the time of the survey at the end of March, as a survey commissioned by the Federal Ministry of the Interior revealed a good four weeks after the start of the war. Those were mostly big cities. Two-thirds said they had friends or family there. Others had been recommended the city by friends or were hoping to find work there.

Germany’s cities were particularly heavily attacked, in Berlin at times 10,000 people arrived a day. 42,000 refugees from Ukraine are now receiving social benefits there. So far, 12,000 have been accommodated in Munich. But Bremen, where there is a large Ukrainian and Russian community, also experienced an influx of 7,200 refugees, which was disproportionately high for the city-state.

For weeks now, politicians have been trying to steer at least all those who are not staying privately more evenly to the different federal states. In the capital, for example, the streams of refugees should drive past them if possible. Deutsche Bahn ran special trains from Frankfurt an der Oder or Przemyśl on the Polish-Ukrainian border directly to the distribution center in Hanover.

However, no one can or wants to prevent those arriving from continuing on to their desired destination. You can move freely in Germany and the EU. “Most Ukrainians only know the big cities, that’s why they want to go there,” explains Holger Liljeberg from the research institute Info, which conducted the survey. If you want to influence the escape routes, you have to advertise other areas on social networks at an early stage. The federal government is currently helping Germany4Ukraine an information portal that could bundle such information.

Where do you live?

The special thing about this crisis is the hospitality: almost a quarter of the refugees stayed with friends at the end of March, 22 percent in another private apartment, and 19 percent lived with relatives. Only seven percent lived in collective accommodation, camps and gyms. But even that brought many federal states to their limits. The initial reception facilities in many countries were quickly almost completely occupied, reports the media service for integration. Additional sleeping places are therefore now being created everywhere with high pressure.

Many refugees are “still very poorly accommodated – in fully occupied accommodation and in emergency shelters,” reports Birgit Naujoks from the North Rhine-Westphalia Refugee Council. There are also difficulties with private accommodation in one’s own household.

At least the pressure has dropped a bit recently because fewer refugees have arrived and some have returned. Their number had fallen from 15,000 people a day in mid-March to just around 2,000, said Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser to the broadcasters RTL and ntv. In Berlin, several emergency shelters are empty, such as a Caritas facility in Prenzlauer Berg. “Fewer people come, but they are significantly older, sicker and also visibly more traumatized,” Ulrike Kostka, director of the Berlin Caritas Association, points out.

In the land of bureaucracy

The German state wants to know who is coming to the country. That’s why every refugee in Germany has to undergo an identity check, including a biometric photo and fingerprints – and that can take a while: As a rule, refugees from the Ukraine are registered using the so-called spade system, which is also used to register asylum seekers. Everyone should allow 30 to 60 minutes, report refugee helpers, provided the technology plays along. Sometimes the servers are overloaded, sometimes the maintenance windows are unfavorable, sometimes there are not enough devices.

The procedures differ from federal state to federal state, but in general the following applies: The decisive factor for registration is where refugees find accommodation first: in one of the central arrival offices or privately with a family. In the arrival centers, the refugees are usually registered systematically. On the other hand, if you live privately, you do not have to register first. However, the refugees do not escape the identity check. This is due at the latest when you want to apply for permanent residence.

For those arriving, registration is just one of several administrative walks. Take Berlin, for example: Anyone who reaches the arrival center first has to deal with the State Office for Refugees (LAF), which is responsible for not only collecting personal data but also for distributing them throughout the country. If you need social benefits, you have to register with the social welfare office. If you want to apply for a residence permit, you have to go to the State Office for Immigration (LEA). The war refugees also get their work permits there. According to a survey by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 92 percent of the Ukrainian women who arrived here were employed in their home country or were in training.


Perhaps the most difficult situation at the moment is for those displaced people who have had to flee Ukraine but do not have a Ukrainian passport. Business people from Vietnam who have lived in Ukraine for years are among them, as well as a taxi driver from Uzbekistan and many students from North and West Africa. All these people in Europe do not automatically get protection under the Mass Influx Directive, which applies to Ukrainians; but only when it is clear that they cannot return to their home country. The problem: Students from Morocco or Tunisia are usually not threatened in their home country. However, they often spent all of their money, sometimes that of relatives, to get a place at university. Some are nearing completion. “These people were expelled in the same way,” says Nora Brezger from the Berlin Refugee Council, which is demanding a two-year right of residence for these people.

Welcome to school

What is currently going on in schools can perhaps best be measured using the example of the smallest federal state: around 7,000 children are in one school year in Bremen. The spokesman for the Senator for Social Affairs estimates that almost half as many Ukrainian schoolchildren have already arrived. They are spread across all age groups. Nevertheless, there are a lot of children who suddenly have to be given additional schooling. According to the Conference of Ministers of Education, there are already more than 65,000 additional students nationwide – and that although many schools were already groaning under the lack of teachers.

In many places, welcome classes were opened at lightning speed, as they were in 2015 and 2016, when thousands of refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, arrived. Even then, around 30 percent of them were children and young people. In the welcome classes, they first learned German separately from the German students and only took part in normal lessons by the hour.

Now the proportion of children among the refugees is even higher at 39 percent. But their situation is somewhat different: Many want to return as soon as possible. Should they learn German at all? Or would it be better to let them follow Ukrainian lessons online? There are refugee students who are currently writing their Ukrainian Abitur online in Germany. The Ukrainian Consul General Iryna Tybinka also called for schooling according to Ukrainian curricula during an appearance at the Conference of Ministers of Education.

Nevertheless, most federal states also focus on integration. In Bavaria, for example, which has so far accepted the most pupils in schools (12,000), more than 600 so-called welcome groups have already been set up, in which around 1,700 welcome workers teach. These can be teachers, but also students, retirees or simply people with Ukrainian language skills. Ukrainian teachers are also involved. The children learn German there.

Where there are no welcome classes, children will be placed in classes from day one. It’s also about giving them a bit of structure, a bit of everyday life in the midst of a foreign country.

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