Interview with Germany on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By: Al Jazeera

Editor's note: This conference is technically taking place in the first week of November 2015 (before Germany’s change of position on the refugee crisis).

What is Germany’s current position on receiving refugees in their country?

Germany is currently welcoming refugees. We believe that freedom and human rights are essential elements of European society and that this should also be valid for the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, making their way to Europe. We have adopted an open door policy; obviously, we do have screening processes but we want to make sure that people who are fleeing war and persecution have a place to seek refuge and be safe.

 

Is Germany only accepting Syrian refugees?

That is a really good question. Germany has basically adopted a policy where we deny entry to migrants coming from safe third-countries. We are accepting Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees and Afghani refugees. There are plenty of countries in the Middle East that are currently facing political and economic instability but we believe that we have to focus on accepting those who are fleeing war, persecutions and take care of these people first because at the end of the day, they are the ones who are in need of help the most.

 

What about the other refugees originating from Northern Africa?

Refugees originating from Northern Africa are deemed migrants from safe third-countries. We do acknowledge that they are facing tough times politically and economically but right now, in this situation, in the context of the Syrian civil war, we cannot accept Northern African refugees, we can only accept refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

As the delegate of Germany, what do you think would happen if Germany continued to accept this many refugees so generously and at such a fast pace?

There is a whole German population that we have to deal with when making these sort of decisions. Currently, the majority of the population is willing to accept all these refugees. However, things could change really quickly. We do have screening processes but they are not 100% reliable or dependable so if anything does happen, there is a risk that we will be dealing with a population that does not agree with our open door policy. We have to therefore think about the future and about the German population as well because it is undeniable that something could go wrong at any moment.

 

Can you talk about Germany’s position on the directive that was passed regarding the percentage of GDP per capita that EU countries will be contributing?

We have decided that countries in the EU such as Germany, that are economically stable and rich will be contributing 0.5% to help the Syrian refugees. Of course, there is a sub-category within the 0.5% of where the money will be going. However, if a country’s GDP is lower than 25 000 euros per capita, that country will only be contributing 0.25%.

What does Germany think about Hungary’s statement about contributing a smaller percentage of funding simply because they were “the first” to receive Syrian refugees?

Germany condemns Hungary’s statement about contributing a smaller percentage of funding simply because they were the first to receive refugees. Germany has accepted the most refugees with their open-door policy. We are the ones who are dealing with funding infrastructure, education and housing settlements. We do recognize Hungary’s burden in accepting the refugees but Germany is the one accepting the most refugees so we are technically spending the most money. Hungary’s statement is therefore invalid.

 

Has the EU council taken any other stands on regulating/operating the refugee flow in Europe?

The EU council will be funding countries such as Greece and Italy (countries by the Mediterranean) to implement better border control and screening processes. Also the EU will be funding Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to develop more infrastructure to temporarily house these people. We are also going to create application centres so that the refugees can apply before reaching the EU. This will be saving us a lot of time and will be allowing us to better manage this huge influx of refugees.

 

What does Germany think will happen if worst comes to worst and the EU countries are forced to raise that percentage for both rich and financially-unstable countries?

Currently, keeping in mind the situation both in economically developed countries such as Germany, and in the financially unstable countries in the East, Germany does not see that as an option. As, I said earlier, we [Germany] have implemented an open door policy and we are welcoming refugees; however, this poses strains on our infrastructure and our economy. If worst comes to worst, and we are left in a situation where further funding is urgently needed, we would have to call upon the United States of America to help fund the resettlement of refugees within the EU. It is important to remind ourselves that while the vast majority of migrations are taking place in the EU, this is a humanitarian crisis and as humans, we must all, no matter our geographic location, take part in helping our cohabitants in seeking asylum.

 

Would Germany be willing to raise that percentage significantly if these financially-unstable countries do not accept to raise their own percentage?

Germany will not be able to raise the percentage, given the huge amount of refugees it has already accepted and the economic strains that come with that. If we find ourselves in that sort of situation, then it would mean that we must rethink our strategies and figure out more ways to fund and manage the resettlement of refugees.