In the past two years, Germany has pledged to admit 30,000 Syrians on humanitarian grounds, a number that is higher than the quotas of the rest of Europe, Australia and Canada combined. Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for UNHCR, described Germany’s humanitarian admission program as generous. She suggested such initiatives, in which legal pathways to Europe for refugees are created, could help address the rising death toll in the Mediterranean Sea’s human-trafficking routes.
“Certainly the lack of safer and legal alternatives to find protection in industrialized countries is part of what drives people to take dangerous sea journeys or other so-called irregular movements,” said Rummery, adding that humanitarian admission scheme practiced by Germany should serve as an example for other governments. “This is an important and concrete way the international community can share the burden of what is the most dramatic humanitarian crisis of our time.”
More than 3,000 people have died at sea this year while attempting “irregular movements” to Europe. Of those who survived the sea trafficking routes and reached European shores, a third were Syrian. Upon their arrival, they applied for asylum in one of the EU’s member states. The number of Syrian asylum applications in Europe has been on the rise in the past two years, peaking with 46,560 applicants in the first half of 2014.
Germany is taking on a lion’s share of Europe’s asylum applicants. The Germans handled more asylum applications from Syrians — 48,000 since 2011 — than any other European country. In 2012, Germany surpassed France as the European country with the most asylum seekers. That trend continued over the next two years.
Taking in so many people in such a short time creates a challenge for the local municipalities that host the refugees, according to Thomas Langwald, deputy head of the humanitarian admissions and resettlement unit at Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
“At the moment we also have a very large number of asylum seekers in Germany, therefore the whole system is somewhat under pressure,” said Langwald. “For all involved in the field of refugee protection and asylum, there is a lot to do.”
Langwald said Germany has spent around 520 million Euros (or about $640 million) on humanitarian efforts connected to the crisis in Syria. Part of that sum goes to building reception centers for refugees across the country, like the one in Friedland, where Ziad and his family stayed during their first two weeks in Germany.