Despite the influx of migrants into Europe last year, less than 10 per cent of the world’s refugee population live in Europe according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Germany registered more than a million in its first registration system called EASY in 2015. It is expected that the eventual total will be less than a million for the year because of double registrations of individuals and onward movement to the Netherlands and Sweden after registration in Germany. However, this is still more than a fivefold increase over the 200,000 people who filed for asylum in 2014. What have been the consequences so far and what are the likely implications?
The political debate
For now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reinforced her open stance towards refugees and asylum seekers and has refrained from introducing any kind of cap or stricter border control, while saying that the numbers of asylum seekers need to go down in 2016. The question of how many asylum seekers and refugees Germany can cope with is high on the political agenda at a time of severe shortages of social housing and questions about integration into the job market of the less skilled. Merkel puts her hopes for numbers going down mostly on the deal with Turkey: funds and visa liberalization in return for increased border patrol and readmission of those who crossed through Turkey. So far in 2016, it seems the only thing bringing down the numbers is the winter weather.
The other major debate within Germany is about the integration of the asylum seekers. It is clear that a faster process needs to be adopted and that proper housing, integration into the job market and education are the prime motors for integration.