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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Response to Refugee Crisis

The Syrian Refugee Crisis is one of the largest mass relocations of vulnerable people to happen in recent history. What started as peaceful anti-government protests, has turned into a bloody war between split factions of opposition and the government’s military force. Multiple millions of people have been displaced because of the warfare happening at their doorsteps. Where does nearly half of a country’s population go when they can no longer ensure their personal safety at home? This paper will analyze the responses to refugee crisis from developed democracies like the United Kingdom and Germany. How do these developed states answer to the droves of evacuated citizens looking for safety, shelter and work?

UK Programs for Relocation

The United Kingdom’s initial response to the crisis was to offer aid to neighboring countries bearing the largest brunt of relocated Syrians in need. The UK then implemented the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme in 2014, which prioritized the resettlement of “elderly, the disabled and victims of sexual violence and torture” (McGuinness, 2017). They later extended this program in 2015 to resettle thousands more and creating systems to help Syrians more cohesively integrate into society as of July 2016 (McGuinness, 2017).  “The UK has committed over £2.46 billion to helping refugees in Syria and the region, making it the second largest donor to the Syrian refugee crisis since the start of the crisis in 2012” (McGuinness, 2017). Along with the Syrian Vulnerable Person effort, the UK actively operates other resettlement programs in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Gateway, together with UNHCR, is one of the oldest and largest resettlement programmes in the EU” (Prime Minister’s Office, 2015). Alongside another program, the Mandate; “It’s designed to resettle individual refugees from anywhere in the world if they: have been recognized as refugees by UNHCR, and judged by them to be in need of resettlement or have a close family member in the UK who is willing to accommodate them” (Prime Minister’s Office, 2015). Creating these programs to help those displaced from Syria is a responsible effort made by the UK, but in reality, how do these refugees fair in their new situations?

Pressures in Struggling Communities

A BBC analysis asserts that the UK has accepted more than 10,000 refugees in the past almost three years, but “statistics suggest that two of the poorest regions in England, Yorkshire and the North East, have taken three times as many refugees relative to the population as the two wealthiest regions, London and the South East” (Butcher, 2018). Though the Syrian Vulnerable Person program promises an equal distribution, it seems that areas already in high demand for local authority housing are using these accommodations for “new arrivals ahead of local people” (Butcher, 2018). Refugees being resettled in areas with existing high government assistance ahead of the people living there does not create a very positive structure for the refugees to thrive in. “The first year all their resettlement costs are covered by central government. After that, the money tapers off – £5,000 in the second year and down to £1,000 in year five”, according to BBC, but if large amounts of people in these areas are already struggling, the opportunity for success seems slim (Butcher, 2018). The weekly allowance in the UK for an adult asylum-seeker is much lower than other EU countries, while the ability to work in other EU countries comes much quicker than the UK, “permission to work will not be granted unless 12 months have past and the claim remains undecided. The UK has introduced severe restrictions on what work an asylum-seeker may be permitted to do even if this condition is met” (“The truth about… refugees”, 2019). Undertaking the relocation and integration of refugees is a complicated process and the act of granting asylum is only the beginning.

Safe Haven in Germany

In 1948 Germany’s Basic Law guaranteed the right to asylum and has ever since “prided itself on being a safe haven for those in need” (Mayer, 2016). Dublin Regulation deems “the first EU member state that an asylum seeker enters, and the one in which they have been fingerprinted, is responsible for handling the claim”, Germany suspended this regulation specifically for Syrian refugees (Mayer, 2016). As other countries started closing their boarders to the mass influx of refugees, Germany resolutely held their borders open. When native citizens of other European countries met refugees with less enthusiastic welcome, “Germans have committed themselves to civil society initiatives that aid refugees arriving in the country, especially when German authorities were stretched to their limits” (Mayer, 2016). As Chancellor of Germany “Merkel has made Germany’s open asylum policy her personal political project” pronouncing that her country is strong enough to help all those in need (Mayer, 2016). “Despite multiple changes to EU law, more than 1.4 million people have applied for asylum in Germany. The majority are Syrian.” (Hindy, 2019). As of 2018, more than 700,000 Syrians are living in Germany and the government is working tirelessly to develop systems to integrate the new refugee population, “with tens of thousands of refugees already enrolled in integration classes at the country’s reputable vocational schools, it is clear that government authorities are purposefully laying out a path to employment for the new members of their society.” (Hindy, 2019). Though refugees are sometimes met with forced notions of assimilation into their new culture, Germany is actively trying to give these people a life to live instead of a temporary place to stay.

Refugee Workforce

Germany’s population is getting smaller and older, with this shrinking labor force “media reports have suggested that Germany’s unfavorable demographics and existing labor shortages in certain sectors and regions played a role in its welcoming policy toward refugees” (Mayer, 2016). Germany’s open-door policy for refugees might not be all good will, but could possibly be a mutually beneficial solution to their workforce issues. Though Merkel’s refugee decision is said to have nothing to do with the labor shortage, “integrating refugees in the labor market is a central task, both so that refugees have control over their own lives and so they can contribute to the economy and society.” (Mayer, 2016). “It is still too early to say how much these government programs will cost the German government in the long run, and whether the economic boost of the new refugee labor force will outweigh the cost of integration.” (Hindy, 2019). Germany’s policies and efforts to resettle refugees is considered a long-term solution. Not only to provide these vulnerable people with safety, but allow them to have a new life Germany if they wish.

Conclusion

Developed democracies have dealt very differently with the refugee crisis, some sending financial aid to other states to help them care for the refugees in lieu of directly welcoming those refugees to their own state, while others open their boards wide to welcome those fleeing the crisis. It is important to remember that undertaking such a large resettlement task is complicated. Documenting, resettling, continued financial support, and integration efforts are incredibly costly, which not every state truly has the means to accomplish. Developed democracies like the UK and Germany are nobly trying to help as they see fit, which is better than not helping at all.

References

Butcher, M. E. & B. (2018, April 24). Where have the UK’s 10,000 Syrian refugees gone? Retrieved October 19, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43826163.

Hindy, L. (2019, June 3). Germany’s Syrian Refugee Integration Experiment. Retrieved October 20, 2019, from https://tcf.org/content/report/germanys-syrian-refugee-integration-experiment/?agreed=1.

Mayer, M. (2016, May 1). Germany’s Response to the Refugee Situation: Remarkable Leadership or Fait Accompli? Retrieved October 20, 2019, from https://www.bfna.org/research/germanys-response-to-the-refugee-situation-remarkable-leadership-or-fait-accompli/.

McGuinness, T. (2017, June 14). The UK response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Retrieved October 19, 2019, from https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06805.

Prime Minister’s Office, 10 D. S. (2015, October 8). Syria refugees: UK government response. Retrieved October 19, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/syria-refugees-uk-government-response.

The truth about… refugees. (2019, April 4). Retrieved October 19, 2019, from https://www.amnesty.org.uk/truth-about-refugees.

 

 

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