A Comparative Research About Refugee Policies of Germany and Turkey
It is known that Germany and Turkey are two countries which opened their doors to refugees while majority of other states did not. In this study I will look for why they do this between the years of 2015 and 2018. Because it is not easy to host the strangers in a country. They should have persuasive reasons. In this study I will elaborate the reasons of these two states. The interesting point here is that Germany chancellor Merkel faced with a threat of loosing her voters as a result of open door policies. Turkey accepted more refugees but a similar reaction is not observed yet. After elaborating the conditions I will point out this issue at the end.
Keywords: Refugee crisis, migration policies, German politics
Before starting my debate, I would like to make the terms clear in order to prevent confusions. Because migrant, asylum seeker and refugee are different terms but mostly being used as synonyms.
After the definitions I will check the process of refugee flow to the Germany and try to point out why such a boom happened in this country. But first, it is necessary to discriminate the notions.
The term “asylum seeker” is the most basic one. As befits the name; it means the one who keeps seeking asylum. So his/her searching process is not complemented yet. Literally it is defined as “Asylum seekers are people who have formally applied for asylum, but whose claim is pending. In contrast to most other OECD countries, Germany has a two-tiered asylum registration system by which people are first registered as prospective asylum applicants (under the so-called “initial registration of asylum candidates” – EASY). They are subsequently invited to formally file an asylum request. In light of the massive inflow in 2015 and early 2016, this has resulted in long delays in asylum seeking, as most new arrivals were only formally registered in the asylum statics in 2016.”
It is obvious that Germany is in the position of leadership for asylum applications. At first glance it looks like a crisis that is hard to manage. But this attendence of asylum seekers shows that Germany is the most charming country to apply for asylum. It is asylum seeker’s first preference. After definitions I will point out this issue.
Similar to Degler & Liebig’s definition it is explained in another article like that “ A migrant, on the other hand, is someone who makes a conscious choice to leave his or her home country for a better quality of life or for economic gain. It is a choice rather than a matter of life and death. An irregular migrant is someone who lacks legal status in a transit or host country because of unauthorized entry, breach of a condition of entry or an expired visa. So anyone can understand that for a migrant there is always a home to turn back. Migration is not compulsory, it is a preference for some reasons. I mean compulsory migration may have very persuasive reasons. But no migrant go some other country with the fear of his/her life. If they do, their classification changes at that time. For example what accelerates the people’s influx to European and Turkey today is really better conditions? I do not think so. Of course people always move some other countries for better conditions. But such an influx require some other deadly reasons. At that time we arrive to another keyword: “Refugee”.
“Refugees or persons in need of international protection refer to people who have successfully applied for asylum and have been granted some sort of protection, which can be either formal refugee status according to the Geneva Convention or to the German fundamental law.” As it is stated in the other article by EY, refugee are in need of protection as a result of war or being exiled because of nation, identity, religion etc… But beyond that, the critical requirement of being a refugee is being accepted by the country you applied for protection. Today there are millions of people who escape from civil war. On one hand protection would be a heavy duty for the state on the other hand they have no home to turn back. Jochen Oltmer also supported my these opinions in his piece: “According to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, “refugees” are those migrants that flee across state borders in order to escape violence because their life, bodily integrity, rights and freedoms are either directly threatened or can, with certainty, be expected to be threatened.”(Oltmer, 2016) This is how refugee crisis occured. In this study, I prefer to name the people who are trying to be a part of Germany, as “refugees”. Because I am searching the period between 2015-2018 and the majority of refugees who arrived in this era were coming from Syria, as a result of civil war.
If we turn back to Germany, the state face with a huge number of asylum seekers. I would like to add a little critic about calculating refugee numbers. According to Eurostat data, in 1.255.685 people applied for asylum to a European country. Among these countries, Germany has 35% of all first time applications. In 2015 and 2016, according to the latest estimates of pre-registrations for asylum by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, almost 1.2 million persons arrived in Germany with the intention of asking for asylum. This is the largest inflow ever registered since World War II in an OECD country, except Turkey. There is a miscalculation of one institution here. I think it looks like to belonging to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Because it has no rigid number. It is just an estimation. Also adding the numbers of 2016 would justify the estimation of ministry.
The story does not start here. It is known that civil war emerged in Syria in 2011 and since then, so many people left the country. Ironically, they get on unsafe boats in order to reach a safe place and 3700 of them could not survive at this passage. This is a unique case because under normal circumstances, war is not something that cause the thousands of people’s escape. But this time it is not clear as well. Civil war has more than two sides. And this time civilians are targeted. This is not the topic of this article but in my opinion it is necessary to emphasize that Syrian Refugees are not war deserters.
But in anyway, Germany welcome the refugees. Two questions come to mind when someone read this sentence. First one is why such a big refugee population prefer to ask for asylum to Germany. It is obvious why they they leave their home country. When we check the home countries of asylum seekers we see that Syrians are three times more than other nations. The number of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Albania, Kosovo are close to each other. They are approximately 30.000 people per year for each country. I will point out why they apply to Germany in the coming section. But the second question is more important: Why Germany welcome the refugees? There are many answers to this question. I checked articles about this issue and found out different answers. I will present them here one by one and contribute my own interpretations.
Figure 1Asylum applications in 2015/2016, in European OECD countries
At the end of the 2015,UNHCR estimated that more than 65 million were forcibly displaced globally. (Geneva: UNCHR, 2016) And here we see where they go on the graphic. The other point we see is Germany is on the top of the list. But what makes Germany more charming than other European countries, in the eye of asylum seekers?
1. Why Refugees Prefer Germany More?
Germany has taken in far more asylum seekers than its European neighbors, and that gap is widening, with the United Kingdom, France and Italy only taking in a small proportion of the total number seeking asylum in Europe.
Migrations to Germany has two routes. And these two routes have two problems. The first one is the central Mediterranean way, from Africa to Italy and from there to central Europe. I will point out the cause of crisis in the next section. The second one is East Mediterranean way and this is where crisis emerges. They apply a sea crossing from Aegean Sea to Greek Islands and keep their journey to central Europe. “Many were fleeing the horrors of the war in Syria. 3,700 people did not survive the journey.” Unfortunately this is the first step of the crisis. So why people jeopardise their own and children’s life by choosing such a dangerous way? To dare such a journey without a hope is impossible. Germany’s open door policy gave them this required hope. The other point about Germany’s refugee policies is the confusements in BAMF. (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees)
Asylum seeker influx was not a surprise for Germany. Even though when the state face with a huge number of refugees, the office needed more personnel in order to be sufficient for the applications. But as a result of a domestic confusement, required appointment did not happened. So asylum seekers had to wait in Germany more than they expected. Maybe for months. And then this domestic crisis turned into an opportunity for asylum seekers and migrants. As a result of the waiting process, they had much time to pass in Germany. The slowdown of BAMF opened a way to migrants. And this situation learned by others, who want to migrate to Germany from Kosovo, Serbia and Albania. Rumours spread from one another and brought more and more asylum applications. And this increased the slowdown of the system. BAMF was absolutely in a vicious circle.
“At the end of December 2016, 434 000 asylum requests were still pending. In 2016, the average duration of an asylum procedure was around 7 months, an increase by 2 months over 2015, partly because the BAMF has started working on more complex cases that were still open from the previous year. In the third quarter of 2016, the average duration varied from less than four months for Syrians to 9 months for Afghan and Eritrean applicants, 15 months for Iranian applicants and 16 months for Somali applicants.”
In 2015 when interior minister of Germany said his estimation about refugee population (800.000) this information opened a way for more refugees. Furthermore, according to a report published in 2017 an internal BAMF mail explained that compulsory return of Syrians to other countries under the Dublin Scheme will be finished. Syrians would be safe in Germany. This good intended explanation caused other migrants to behave like Syrian. Such similar cases also happen in Turkey. The simplest one is observed among beggars especially children; they learned a little Arabic and trying to make demagogy in order to take money from the people.
The other reason divert refugees to Germany is economic constraints. The first and the most prefered destination of refugees is Turkey. But what Turkey can give to thousands of refugees is limited. Another result of economic constraints is that refugees can go to limited distances. If we keep thinking about Syrian refugees we see that their location is spread around the world parallel to distances. Turkey hosts the bigger number of refugees than Germany. But in Canada the number of refugees is even less than Germany. Because without economic welfare it is impossible to move forward. The rest of the refugees also come from Iraq or Western Europe. Not from Latin America or Africa. Because limited economic resources provide limited ability to move away.
The other branch of economic reasons is potential network in Germany. It is known that in 1970’s, Germany accepted a broaden labour migration from other countries. These people settled down in Germany and created a network for their relatives and acquaintances. On the other hand there are wide networks of common origin in Germany like associations of countryman that pulls more refugees to Germany. I believe this is the result of Germany’s global effectiveness around the world. Global workers are a natural result of a global economy. Labour migration does not only origin from Syria. People move to Germany from countries like Greece, Turkey Serbia in order to find a job and settle down. But today as a result of war many Afghan and Syrian refugee prefer to move to Germany. They prefer it because the possibility of being hired is much more in Germany. In my eye, this is the most powerful reason that makes Germany more charming than other close locations. Because working is necessary to slake the basic needs. I say the most powerful because basic needs stands at the first level of hierarchy of basic needs.
The other point makes the refugee influx easier is collapse of EU defence barriers. In 1990’s, EU was constructed fences against asylum seekers who would come from Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Albania, or Ukraine. But then disintegration of these countries opened a door to a chaos at the EU borders and preventive system had collapsed. This confusement made passing through European side easier. The other event that change the paradigm is 2007 economic crisis. Crisis always change the roles. At this time crisis again changed the current system and opened the locked doors of Europe to other countries for cooperation. Then in the early 2010’s it is observed that there is a willingness in Germany to accept refugees. This was the result of the ageing population of Germany. An ageing population is not a good news for a broad economy.
Another triggering effect of refugee influx is abolition of Dublin system. It is a regulation system for refugees distribution in Europe. In UNCHR’s official website it is explained as the rule of refugees staying in the country where he/she first entered to Europe. This was a big problem for both refugees and receiver countries. Because most of them were entering to continent from Italy or Greece. So it was a heavy duty for these countries. Especially for Greece, with a weak economical level. On the other hand, refugees was moving to Europe with great expectations. None of them dreamed living in Romania instead of Germany. Dublin system was in operation along with 1990’s. But then it dissoluted by the time. 2007 global financial crisis was one of the main reason for that. As a result of crisis, refugee entrances started to increase. Then Arab Spring get it to the top level and the system lost its operability. Because the number or refugees were more than these countries can control. So Dublin regulation is boomed by refugees.
The last point which accelerated refugee influx to Germany was open door policies. When Angela Merkel said “Wir schaffen das”(we can do it) on 31 August 2015, she responded to a wave of good will and hospitality in the population. This sentence was the symbol of Merkel’s position about refugee policies. With this discourse, she became a special figure in German politics both in right and left. Even Though there was an opposition to this policies even in her own party. But such a perspective requires economical and social duties. So why she positioned in that way? I scanned articles and news and found out some reasons. I will debate them in the next section.
2. Why Germany Keep Its Borders Open?
During 2015 and 2016, Germany admitted more than one million persons seeking protection. In the previous section I indicated that Germany is very generous to refugees. Borders are open and the state provides protection. But why does Germany do this? Many other European countries lock their doors to refugees in order to prevent any economic or social problem. Is Germany a super warm hearted and helpful state? Or could not it calculate how expensive it would be? Did Germany make a mistake or an investment? I will array and debate the reasons from back to today.
The first one is stigmatisation. In the Second World War process, unfortunately exposing Jews harmed the country’s prestige in international area. Also genocide was another handicap for Germany. Today refugees might be seen as an opportunity to delete harms of history. The right to asylum was first guaranteed by Germany’s Basic Law in 1948 as a direct reaction to the Holocaust. The law reflects the responsibility that the country continues to shoulder for its past. Germany was dedicated itself to be a safe place for anyone in need aftermore.
There is also another blame on Germany about this issue. It is claimed that exposal of many Palestinian people is result of Germany’s action. So Arab-Israeli wars, re-drawing the borders of Middle East is partly the crime of Germany. The purpose of this denial can be explained in this way: in 1945 Germany opened a way to a huge refugee crisis. Some Euro-Jews went to Palestine and established Israel State. Most Palestinians were forced to leave their land in Palestine during what became known as the “Nakba” (the “Catastrophe”).(Fafkude, 2015) As a result of this migration, Jews exposed Palestinians from their hometown. It is very indirectly true. But in my realistic perspective to construct such a correlation makes no sense. But in anyway there is a group guiding this idea and it caused the stigmatisation of Germany. Such a historical accusation has always been a problem for Germany’s policies and even for German individuals. Because after holocaust, Germany supported the establishment of Israel in order to be remitted in international area. But this time it caused another man-made disaster. And the ones who blame Germany for Palestinian’s exposal are not minority. Then refugee crisis became a great opportunity for Germany. Opening borders to Syrian refugees was the way of Germany’s apologize. Creating a helpful image might make the people forgot what is happened in the history. I do not want to limit my perspective only with realism. But in anyway this explanation is not satisfactory in my opinion. Even if the accusations were right; why would Germany care about these? Because other side is not powerful enough to sanction Germany’s steps in trade or international relations. In anyway this is the first explanation -not my favourite one- about why Germany open borders to refugees.
The other proposal about the reason of Germany’s hosting refugees in its invisible leadership in Eurozone. In summer 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged as a leading figure in the Europe-wide response to the refugee crisis. On August 31, she issued a call to arms, declaring, “if Europe fails on the question of refugees, it won’t be the Europe we wished for.” This is not an official rule but a precedent. Germany is economic leader of European Union, just like France is in diplomacy. A recent example of this is keeping Greece in Eurozone. In spite of much of external debt, Greece stayed in the union with the help of Germany. Because its existence was critic in the Union. And Germany did it for the sake of European Union. This time a similar case is happening again. Beyond deleting the traces of the past guiding the EU was another motivation for Germany. And this is a natural result of Germany’s economic power.
A third reason is refugees’ young population in front of the Germany’s ageing population. What does it mean? Basically, it is known that a powerful economic system requires a powerful labour. On the contrary as a result of family planning, ageing population constitutes the majority of Germany. So refugees might be an opportunity to keep its production. They need job and Germany needs workforce. So it would be only a win-win project to make them settle down there. The warm welcome given by Chancellor Merkel to the Syrian refugees has even been regarded as something of a demographic coup, with motivated, healthy and educated people invited to join an ageing society, thus giving it a much-needed youthful boost. Many of the newly arrived Syrians in Munich were in their 20s and 30s and displayed an impressive range of qualifications and aspirations, often combined with competence in European languages. (Hardach,2015)
It is claimed that another motivation of Merkel was humanitarian senses. Some scholars explain the open door policy with moral political values. Its name is “welcome culture”. In 2005, a reformed immigration law entered into force, which merged the previously distinct concepts of “migration policy” and “integration policy”. This was a milestone in the German approach on migration. “For the first time in the federal German history of labour migration, permanent migration was explicitly presented to the public as a political aim”. In my mind, the term “welcome culture” is a kind of tool to make the process easier. The government also decided about integration of refugees. But the more important part of the issue is to make the German society admit this situation. Because without the support of the community a democracy can not operate. Germans had to be persuaded in order to make the integration process easier. Because the current government was not elaborating the refugee issue as a temporary process. As I mentioned above, with various reasons refugees were opportunity rather than a problem for German government. But it was not possible to achieve it without support of society. So in order to accelerate the integration, welcome culture had to be internalized by individuals. Then, the term welcome culture is started to be used by government members and media discourse. German migration institute was designed the migration process in three sections. Sometimes integration is being perceived as equation. According to institute’s categorization equation starts at third step. But welcome culture interested in beginning and mediate level more. In substance, some of scholars elaborate welcome culture as a sincere causation of open door policy. They believe this is a projection of solidarity. For another group, Merkel have some realistic aims and open doors for that. In my mind to believe in emotions’ existence in politics would be an over optimistic view. Welcome culture is just a means that she is trying to engrain into society in order to reach some political targets which I mentioned above.
I arrayed the main reasons of acceptance. Now it is time to check the result of these policies and then start to comparison.
3. Results of Open Door Policies
Reactions to such an extraordinary policy were not late both from national and international actors. Refugees were trying to spread to Europe. But Dublin Regulation let them only to stay in the country where they first entered into the continent. According to this system, they accumulated in Greece and Italy. Because maritime line was more risky but less expensive at the same time. On one hand these two countries thought that it is injustice and offered a common response for refugee problem. On the other they were not capable to host such a big number of refugees. And then in 2015 EU Agenda on Migration is arranged by European Commission. The first reaction came from Hungarian President Orban. He was absolutely against the acceptance of refugees. In order to stay powerful, he offered constructing fences, to prevent refugee entrance. But this time they were going to accumulate in Greece and it would cause a bigger chaos for EU. Because of that Merkel believed that refugee problem should be assumed by any member of the union.
Beyond international crisis, this decision of Merkel opened a way to a race in the state. In 2017 federal elections, far right party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) passed the five percent threshold for the first time and achieved to enter into bundestag. This situation obviously shows that German citizens looking for an “alternative” opposing to Merkel. It is not a coincidence that alternative searching happened at the time which Merkel loaded publish with a heavy charge. Especially bargaining with Turkey and visa dialogue disturbed many of Germans. As a natural result Merkel’s party, CDU began to decline. Another evidence I see in the election results is that welcome culture propaganda did not work as she wanted. Similar to other EU members German society could not internalize the welcome policies yet.
Through the reception and integration of new migrants public begun to show hostility to them. So to speak, they were feeling like there are strangers at home. As a reaction to this hostility, media showed them as weak, helpless, miserable victims. According to critical discourse analysts (e.g. Wodak/ Matouschek 1993), the principal tool of the media in choosing to present either a positive or a negative depiction of migration is the exploitation of a so-called “victim complex”.(Trauner & Turton, 2017) What makes European society nervous about refugees is an identity crisis beyond financial anxiety. While these aspects were also creating the tension; Post-Cologne attacks contributed more. Terrorist attacks in Nice and Berlin caused a great reaction in society.
Another criticism came from Konrad Ott (2016) criticized defenders of Merkel’s refugee policy aspire deontologists, committed to aiding refugees purely as an end in itself – an ‘ethics of conviction’ (Gesinnungsethik’) – regardless of consequences. He argues that opening doors to the ones in need can not be explained by moral politics. Because state has to think about its consequences. If not; wider problems probably occur which is more difficult to solve. Government did not concern about open-arm policies as it requires.
As I mentioned above, what makes society nervous about refugees is their identity. In spite of differences in itself, being European means some common qualities. And dark skinned, Arabic speaker, Muslim appearance disturb the notion of this European identity at first glance. This can occur because of prejudice, cultural bias or differences. The same security problem is possible for European society. Funk claimed that European women’s safety is at danger. It could be true. But not enough to decide about all of them. Because after refugees influx, the rates of rape/abuse did not increased. Maybe Funk also has such biases. At the end, two different society’s living together may open a way two refugee hostility and violence. But in my mind solution to this is not leave the refugees to death. After survival of them, problem could be solved in anyway.
The most tangible reason of refugee hostility is cost of integration. This situation makes them feel like Merkel is stealing their money from their pockets. It may be true in an indirect way. But they gave this initiative to her with their own votes. The other objection to this situation is that, refugees are not responsible of what is happening today. But they take all the penalties and the problem become more complicated.
4. Where Turkey Stands in This Issue?
Through the end of my study I prefer to put forth the similar and different sides of Turkish refugee policy, rather than telling whole the process. It is known that borders of these two neighbour states were open before civil war. In fact before the civil war, there was also a well integration at the border region. Then in 2011 with the starting of civil war a huge number of refugees began to influx. At the beginning of the war, the state perceived this situation as a temporary process. Refugees were supposed to turn back to Syria after a while. So no nothing had been done to regulate them. But it was a miscalculation of the government.
Similar to Germany, Turkey also operate open door policy. In Germany 1.2 millions of refugees are living while 3.5 millions of them settled down in Turkey. The populations of two states very close to each other. (Germany with 82 millions and Turkey with 79 millions) So proportionally Turkey has a higher rate. Beyond that Turkey and Germany have many similarities about this issue.
In Germany, temporary protection is limited with one year but in Turkey it is not obvious how temporary it is. Another similarity is leading party’s religious senses. Merkel used “welcome culture” to make them absorbed at once; Erdogan applied Turkish hospitality and religious brotherhood (muhacir-ensar). And none of them worked as they planned. In Turkey it does not look like so. But I mean if Turkish president did not used such discourse, individuals were going to help them again. Uyghur Turks is an evidence of it. Society is very willing to help them.
Similar to Germany, media victimized refugees in Turkey also. A discourse analysis shows that Turkey’s five newspapers with the highest circulation figures show them as miserable and weak. Because these were close to government. When we check the opponent newspapers we see that refugees are projected as potential threat for society.
At the end in both countries, in spite of governments’ efforts of integration a tension escalated through refugees. In Germany it has various reasons like identity difference, economic duty, reaction from EU members and security problems. Another reaction came to the Germany-Turkey treaty which aims at relocate refugees at where they come from. With this treaty, the people who arrived at Germany via Turkey, will be sent back to Turkey and they would turn back to their homeland from Turkey. Visa free passing and 3 billion dollars were vowed. But not implemented yet.
In spite of many similarities, politically the results are different. In German, Merkel’s rival party AfD had more votes in the last election. German citizens looked for an “alternative” to Merkel. And AfD is strongly opposed to refugee acceptance. In 2017, it succeeded to have chairs in bundestag for the first time.
Conclusion and Critics
It is obvious that refugees are always perceived as a reason of chaos in both countries. When the state follows an open-arm policy; the society reacts. But when they are not allowed to enter into country, humanitarian disasters emerge like the sad story of “Aylan Kurdi”. The secret of balancing between these two sides is not easy. I would like to array what I found problematic about this issue.
If a basic picture of the two countries is needed I can sum it up like that, both governments see the refugees as an opportunity but conditions are different. In Germany, there are less refugees, higher economic levels of individuals and state and better integration policies. As I told in second section, Germany have persuasive reasons for it. But again the public showed its reaction in 2017 elections. It is obvious that they do not agree with Merkel about refugee issue. So I can make that inference, they are not persuaded enough to open their arm. Or they do not care about what makes Merkel decided about this issue. Changing the hatred image of the state, receiving young workforce or preventing their accumulation in Greece is not important for an individual. And a part of German society does care about individual interest rather than state’s interests. But in one point these two profits intersect. It is necessary for Merkel to find that point in order to persuade the society. It is important to progress integration policies to be able to collapse the identity crisis of Europe. But refugee issue is not something that state can achieve by itself. It should be a co-operation and without the society’s support it is impossible to government’s perform it by itself.
But when we look at Turkey, there are 3.5 millions refugees, almost three times more than in Germany(1.2 million). Integration policies started to be designed too late and still not sufficient. On the other hand financial level of Turkish Republic is lower than Germany. But again in 2015 November elections AKP got the power single handed. How it is possible?
One of the reasons is hospitality of Turkish people really works. But it is not enough by itself. Especially in border region, as a result of open door policies before civil war, a well integration was also provided. And it catalyzed living together today. Religious connections also should not be eliminated. These are the two main motives behind open door policies. According to migration and integration report published by Turkish Grand National Assembly Turkish citizens has no hostility or exclusion through Syrian refugees. But this is a governmental report. As I mentioned above, such abstract situations are not easy to measure. And interpretations change according to political ideology. So this report can give subjective information.
To sum up, it seems there is a more interactive democracy in Germany. Actions of politicians have more speed reactions. There are many well-designed integration policies but again people change their mind if they are not satisfied. In Turkey there is a stagnation both in government and society. Neither sufficient integration policies nor changing political ideas. But I believe a co-operation is possible which would satisfy both countries. Time and planning is necessary for that.
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