• Why are there so many refugees?

    In the past five years, 15 new conflicts emerged worldwide that displaced desperate people from their homelands, such as in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine or Myanmar. People leave their country to bring their children into safety, because their home was destroyed or when they are persecuted due to their ethnicity or religion. Increasingly so, natural disasters are destroying the livelihoods of many people. No one leaves their home voluntarily. A home provides safety, identity and a future. The people who have come here in the past months and years have lost all of this – maybe forever.

    According to UN statistics, Syria is currently the country with the most refugees globally. Almost five million people have fled Syria, 6.6 million Syrians are displaced in their own country. Next comes Afghanistan, a country where peace seem very distant. The African countries Somalia, Southern Sudan, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo follow.

    Never before have there been so many refugees as today. At the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people globally. This statistic stems from the UNHCR. Together, these people would constitute the 21st most populous country in the world.

    Even if we may often have the feeling that we are taking in the most refugees, other countries are at the top. In fact, Turkey is the country that has taken in the most refugees with approximately 2.5 million people at the end of 2015. Many of them still live there.

    As long as the international community is not capable of solving conflicts and mediating between warring parties, people will continue to set forth with only few possessions to save their life and the lives of their family members.

  • When will people return home?

    Only when peace has returned to these countries will people return to their homes. This is not the case in the most areas of the world. People who have fled may face persecution or even death, for example when refugees have escaped from a regime and thereby refused to go to war. Germany does not send people seeking refuge back to a situation where they are persecuted, threatened and suppressed. However, some countries of origins are considered safe by the authorities, which means that persons from the following states outside of the EU have almost no chance of a positive decision on an asylum application. These are safe countries of origin:

    • Albanien
    • Bosnien und Herzegowina
    • Ghana
    • Kosovo
    • Mazedonien (ehemalige jugoslawische Republik)
    • Montenegro
    • Senegal
    • Serbien
  • Has there ever been a comparable refugee movement?

    Germany is a country that has often taken in large streams of refugees. Between the two world wars, around 600,000 immigrants from the East came here. Since 1950, there were 4.5 million late repatriates, of which 3.1 million still live with us today. Most recently, we have taken in many refugees from conflicts in the Balkans. It has always worked and never plunged our country into crisis.

  • What is the official procedure for when refugees arrive here?

    By now, all refugees who have arrived since 2015 have been registered according to the BAMF. However, there are doubts regarding this assertion. Registration is the first step when refugees arrives among us. A central database contains all data of refugees that have been registered here – including fingerprints, photos and personal data. This is the so-called proof of arrival (“Ankunftsnachweis”). For this, an ID document was specifically introduced to allow access to social benefits. After the registration comes the application for asylum.

  • What is the procedure for granting the right of asylum?

    The application for asylum is normally submitted in person at a field office of the Federal Office or in one of the arrival centers. Only in very few exceptions is the application submitted in writing. Within the procedure, it is determined whether another European state is responsible for examining the asylum application (verification of the Dublin Regulation).

    Once their asylum application has been filed, applicants receive a certificate of their permission to reside (“Aufenthaltsgestattung”) which thereby replaces the “proof of arrival”. This document proves that they are in Germany lawfully. Permission to reside is territorially restricted to the district (residence obligation) in which the responsible reception facility is located. The residence obligation applies to asylum-seekers. It does not apply for persons with good prospects of permanent residence after three months; persons from safe countries of origin with negative prospects of permanent residence must live in their accommodation until departure. If the residence obligation does not apply anymore, asylum-seekers can be accommodated in apartments. The residence obligation applies to those whose deportation has been banned (“Geduldete”) and persons with subsidiary protection who receive social benefits. Through the residence obligation, they are bound to a specific location.

    The official interview is the most important step of the asylum procedure. During this personal appointment, an interpreter is present. It is strictly required that the asylum-seeker appears personally – otherwise the procedure may be discontinued or the application may be declined. The interview is not public, but may be attended by an attorney or a representative of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Attendance of a trusted third party must be approved in advance by the Federal Office. In case of unaccompanied minors, the guardian is present. The goal of the interview to find out the particular reasons for flight. All reasons that speak in favor of staying in Germany must be brought forth at this interview because they cannot be considered at a later date, even in case of a trial. The individual fate, circumstances and reasons of flight as well as the situation that the person would expect upon return to the country of origin are all discussed during the interview. In addition, any reasons that speak against extradition are brought forth.

    If there are doubts concerning the identity of the asylum-seeker, the Federal Office verifies the person’s origin using language and text analysis with the help of assessors.

    After the interview, the Federal Office decides on the application for asylum based on the interview protocol, personal documents and other documentary evidence. The decision rests on the fate of the individual applicant as a matter of principle. Each asylum application is examined as to whether one of the four forms of protection apply: Entitlement to asylum, refugee protection, subsidiary protection or a ban on deportation. If there is an entitlement to protection, the applicant receives a positive notice. The asylum application is only declined if none of the forms of protection come into consideration. An application can also be declared inadmissible if another Member State is responsible (Dublin procedure). After an asylum application has been rejected with final effect, another application can be submitted. This so-called follow-up application allows changes in the factual or legal position after the incontestable decision to be asserted.

    A granted asylum application can result in different forms of protection:

    Refugee protection is more comprehensive than entitlement to asylum and is based on the Geneva Convention.
    A person entitled to asylum is politically prosecuted and would be subject to a serious human rights violation should they return to their country of origin.
    Subsidiary protection applies when neither refugee protection nor an entitlement to asylum can be granted and serious harm is threatened in the country of origin.
    Should none of the three forms of protection be applicable, a ban on deportation can be issued if specific grounds apply.

    Even in case of a negative notice and notice of intention to deport, appeals are available. The action must be lodged within a short period of time. The court then examines the decision which the Federal Office has taken.

    The final decision of the Federal Office, that is after the conclusion of the asylum proceedings, is followed either by a right of residence or a by right to remain, or by an obligation to depart. Persons entitled to protection receive a residence permit from their immigration authority if the decision on their application is positive.

  • What is the Dublin procedure?

    Within the Dublin procedure, it is determined which Member State is responsible for the asylum application. The purpose is to ensure that each asylum application is only examined by one state. It is thus verified whether Germany is responsible or whether the person concerned has already lodged an asylum application in another country. If protection has already been granted under the law on asylum in one Dublin state, no further examination of the asylum application is possible in Germany. In this case, a transfer request is filed with the State in question. If this State consents to the transfer, the Federal Office issues a notice ordering it. The person concerned is asked whether there may be any reasons against the transfer. In addition, the person concerned can file a court action against this decision, and can put forward an emergency motion. It is not permissible for them to be transferred to the Member State until the ruling has been handed down in the emergency court proceedings. If the transfer is not carried out within six months, responsibility for the proceedings is transferred to the Member State which has requested the transfer.

  • Who is granted asylum?

    Any person who is persecuted in their country of origin or who has reason to fear political persecution should they return can apply for asylum in Germany. However, a refugee must first have passed border controls. It is possible to be refused beforehand. For example, refugees may be immediately arrested and returned to the neighboring country according to the Dublin III Regulation. A refugee should apply for asylum in the country through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU. Asylum applications may be lodged by adults, but also by children.

  • What is the legal basis of asylum in Germany?

    Protection and asylum is granted to persons seeking help from persecution as “persons eligible for asylum” according to Article 16a of the Constitution or as “Refugees” according to § 3 subs. 1 of the German Asylum Procedure Act (“Asylverfahrensgesetz”). Subsidiary protection or bans on deportation are also granted based on the Asylum Procedure Act.

  • What types of residence permits are there?

    Persons who are entitled to asylum receive a residence permit from their immigration authority for three years. The same applies if refugee status has been granted. A settlement permit can be issued after three years at the earliest under certain circumstances, such as the ability to make a secure living and adequate knowledge of the German language.

    Persons who are entitled to subsidiary protection receive a residence permit which is valid for one year and can be extended for two more years in each case. A settlement permit can be issued after five years at the earliest (the duration of the asylum procedure is included) if other preconditions are met, such as the ability to make a secure living and adequate knowledge of German.

    If a national ban on deportation has been handed down, a person may not be returned to the country to which this ban on deportation applies. Those concerned receive a residence permit for one year. The same rules apply to issuing a settlement permit as to people who are entitled to subsidiary protection.

  • Are refugees allowed to bring their family to rejoin them in Germany?

    The following are regarded as family members for the purposes of family asylum: spouses and registered partners; minor, unmarried children; the parents of minor, unmarried persons for the purpose of care and custody; other adults who have personal custody of minor, unmarried persons; minor, unmarried siblings of minors. A precondition applying to spouses is for a valid marriage to have already existed in the country of origin.

    This arrangement applies to persons entitled to protection to whom refugee protection or entitlement to asylum has been granted or who have received subsidiary protection. Persons are ruled out with regard to whom a national ban on deportation was found to exist during the asylum procedure. Family asylum is regulated in section 26 of the Asylum Act (AsylG). The legal basis for the children of asylum applicants born in Germany can be found in §§14 a and 43 subs. 3 sentence 1 of the Asylum Act.

    Persons entitled to protection who are entitled to asylum and to whom refugee status or subsidiary protection has been granted are entitled to privileged family reunification. This means that they do not need to prove that they can support themselves and that they have adequate living space as a precondition for the family members entering the country. This applies to the subsequent immigration of the spouse and of minor, unmarried children. The appropriate application for this must be filed with the German diplomatic representation responsible for the family members’ place of residence within three months after the entitlement to asylum or to protection has been granted. If the application is filed later, there is no entitlement to reunification, but the diplomatic representation decides at its own discretion (Source: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees)
    If subsidiary protection was granted after 17 March 2016, a transitional period of two years applies, during which time family reunification is not possible. Family reunification is not possible while the asylum application is still pending.

  • Are refugees allowed to work here?

    Under certain conditions, asylum applicants, persons eligible for asylum and recognized refugees may work. Depending on status, different institutions are responsible.
    As soon as persons are registered and have the temporary suspension of deportation status, they can seek consultation at the Employment Agency (“Agentur für Arbeit”). After three months, all asylum applicants with this status are entitled to placements, consultations and trainings. Asylum applicants may also commence an apprenticeship position. The Employment Agency may offer job application training and verify any qualifications from the country of origin.

    As soon as an asylum application has been granted, the responsibility moves to the local job center. From this time, all benefits that ensure basic financial security of job-seekers apply.

    Both the Employment Agency and the job centers compensate application expenses and costs arising from job interviews.

    There are integration subsidies for asylum applicants with positive outlook on staying in Germany, which the employer can apply for when employing. The European Social Fund (ESF) also offers support for education and training.

    Vocational training or preparation measures can already be commenced with the temporary suspension of deportation status. This status then applies until the end of the vocational training. Afterwards, a period of six months is granted for seeking employment. If an employment that is adequate in regards to the vocational qualification is taken up, the right of residence is extended for two additional years.

    Asylum applicants or persons with temporary suspension of deportation status: Employment Agency
    Persons entitled to asylum and recognized refugees: local job centers.

  • Can refugees become naturalized citizens at some point?

    The same preconditions of naturalization apply to persons entitled to asylum and recognized refugees as to any other foreign citizen. Due to the special refugee situation of the past two years, the conditions have in parts been eased. The minimum time of residence in Germany has been reduced from eight to only six years. The time period of the asylum application is counted in full. In addition, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees assesses whether persecution persists. If so, dual citizenship is possible. Requirements regarding the language test within the naturalization test are lowered so that basic knowledge suffices. However, knowledge of the legal system, rights, duties and living conditions in German society, which forms the basis of successful integration, are also required.

    One precondition of naturalization is an apartment or other accommodation in Germany as a permanent residence. Furthermore, impunity is another precondition, i.e. persons seeking to be naturalized citizens must not be guilty of a grave criminal offense. They must be able to support their own livelihood and not be dependent on social welfare.

  • What does it mean to work as a volunteer?

    If you decide to work as a volunteer, you generally have to learn everything there is to know yourself and find a suitable assignment on your own. In Schermbeck, there is already a viable network of volunteers who you can reach out to and from whose experiences you can benefit. The contact persons listed in this platform are each responsible for their respective areas such as the clothing bank, German language courses and sports clubs. Furthermore, there are many volunteers, who are easiest to contact via the Caritas volunteer coordinator. Monika Liesenfeld is at the junction of most activities in the field of refugee support.

    Contact Monika Liesenfeld, Volunteer Coordinator for Refugee Work
    Caritas Association for the Deaneries of Dinslaken and Wesel
    Maassenstraße 1
    46514 Schermbeck
    Phone: 02853 4480731
    Cell: 0160 90449226


    Of course, you are free to help on your own initiative. However, you should be clear on the scope of your work, whether you would prefer to work with others and whether you are more suited to host a refugee in your home or family. Each of these possibilities is associated with its own set of challenges. There are many webpages where volunteers exchange information, share their experiences and offer advice. Furthermore, there is an online guide (link, in German: Many help pages may focus on regional topics, but experiences from other regions may still be helpful for your own volunteer work.

    Free handbook for volunteers working in refugee relief
    Extensive guideline for volunteer work
    Help for supervising refugees
    Integration guideline for volunteers
    Tools for issues of asylum for refugees
    What to do to prevent racism in the proximity of refugee accommodation
    Address book for refugees in particular need of protection in Brandenburg
    Information for refugee helpers in Northrhine-Westphalia (NRW)
    Tips for handling traumatized refugees (from sexual violence)

    The consumer protection agency has also collected information and tips and clearly listed them under the header “Information for refugee helpers” (link, in German:

  • Where can I get more information about volunteer work?

    The Caritas webpages offer valuable help for your own volunteer work. The challenging task of assisting people with integrating into society can be significantly facilitated if the right information is available. It is crucial to manage expectations, pretenses and limitations beforehand to prevent overburdening oneself emotionally and to prevent stress and disappointments. Young people, employed people, senior citizens and anyone who is willing to contribute a little time to charity is welcome to help.

    It is easiest to set out yourself – come to the volunteer café at Ecco Hotel, the meeting place “Café International, ” the Caritas offices or anyplace where refugees live together and are happy to welcome you. In many refugees’ country of origin, hospitality is highly valued. Just by engaging with them over a cup of tea and conversation, you can do them a favor. This may require a little courage to overcome your inhibitions, but trust us – it will be worth it!

    You can also offer your help via the previously named coordinators. You will be led by full-time professionals working in refugee support so that you do not have to take the first steps on your own. The most important qualities to bring along are openness, motivation and some patience. This will allow you to find your place and become a cornerstone towards building our shared future.

    Some refugees may have experienced traumatic events and a well-intentioned word can sometimes have an undesired effect. In this case, you should be prepared to turn to professional support. Likewise, cultural differences and different expectations may cause problems to appear. Don’t be discouraged, engage in dialogue and seek council of professionals.

  • Do refugees receive more support than local people in need?

    Local people in need have different points of contact than refugees. Refugee support is provided by specific organizations. Apart from the municipality, this is particularly managed by Caritas in Schermbeck. The Immigration Authority and special contacts at the Job Centers and the Federal Employment Agency are responsible for refugees. They do not take away jobs or financial support from Germans in need since these benefits are financed from different sources. Refugees do not take away anyone’s job. Initially, refugees are not allowed to work. Later on, there are many opportunities to begin a new job. Often, qualifications must first be recognized, causing refugees to first be placed in unqualified positions. Due to the shortage of skilled labor in Germany, refugees should be given the opportunity to gain new skills through vocational training, thus balancing our country’s competitive disadvantage.

  • How do I respond to hate speech against refugees?

    It is often said that we cannot afford to take in so many refugees. This is not true. Respecting human rights comes at a price. Germany can afford to dedicate itself to this task. Most of all, Germany needs a diverse, young society with a future. The many young people who have left their home countries in desperation can give our country a future. In most cases, they are motivated to find work, to give our society something back for having been received in such an emergency and they are often young and capable. If we manage the challenge correctly, the wave of refugee could be a blessing for our aging society.

    Not everyone shares this view. Xenophobic remarks often drop in surprising situations and by people from whom we may not have expected it. What is the best way to react in these moments, when we feel agitated and the positive image we had of our counterpart is suddenly called into question?  It is best to stay calm and objective. Thankfully, there are enough important and plausible arguments that it is not necessary to have an emotional discussion.

    Protecting refugees who are exposed to violence and persecution in their home countries is a humanitarian and legal duty. This duty is agreed upon in the Geneva Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and forms the basis of our constitutional state. In fact, the duty to help refugees is anchored in our Constitution. Many of the rights of refugees were created in reaction to the atrocities of World War II. Who, if not us, should therefore be committed to them to a special degree?

    If you hear the argument that refugees are most of all quite costly, you should respond that our society is overaged and urgently needs young people who are willing to work in order to fulfil the intergenerational contract. Since more people pass away than are born every year, we should be happy about immigration from foreign countries. Within the wave of refugees in 2015 and 2016, labor regulations and the possibilities of quickly beginning vocational training to start a profession were expanded. This is beneficial for our society. If we enable them, people in need can turn into tax payers. Of course, there will be some ill, traumatized people who will continue to be in need. But our society is based on Christian values, and this act of charity is something that Germany can afford financially.

    The accusation that most refugees are economic migrants is not tenable since it has become apparent that especially Syrian refugees flee from random killings by the regime and the so-called Islamic State. In addition, people who apply for asylum here are carefully verified. Eligible for asylum and in need of protection are those who are persecuted based on religion, descent or political beliefs, exposed to sexual violence, or must fear for their life due to civil war in their home country.

    If you hear that foreigners are more criminal than Germany, this is not in accordance with the facts. Crime does not increase in the areas around refugee housing. To the contrary, refugees are faced with violence that is fueled by stereotypes and false presumptions.