We want to promote an objective discussion of the refugee situation and to develop lasting solutions. We use evidence-based findings and empirical observations to raise awareness of areas needing improvement and to develop long-term action plans and scalable solutions. In doing so, we consider all participants on all levels of government and civil society, including countries of origin. We cooperate closely with the relevant actors, which means the support we provide reaches those who need it. Our work targets five areas that reflect the challenges faced by refugees, migrants and host countries, as well as their experiences. Those areas are:
Causes of displacement, migration routes, asylum procedures, European solutions
The reasons why people become migrants – conflict, political persecution and poor socioeconomic prospects, to name a few – must be combated on a global level and holistic solutions must be developed. In order to manage migration in a way that benefits everyone involved, measures are needed for expanding skills in countries of origin, as are opportunities for legal immigration and a fair system for distributing new arrivals among communities. The EU is playing a key role in stabilizing regions affected by migration and in cooperating with the relevant non-EU countries. It must also consider the national interests of its member states while maintaining solidarity among them. Coherent policy approaches and efficient administrative processes are just as important here as collaboration at the international level among source, transit and host countries.
Reception and civic engagement at the local level
Integration takes place at the local level. This is where communities and civil society organizations play an all-important role. In postwar Germany, neither has faced a challenge of such magnitude: taking in so many people in need in such a short amount of time. Initially the predominant question was whether or not to admit refugees; what are needed now are collaborative solutions capable of integrating those who stay into German society. The relevant topics here include decentralized housing provision, individualized language instruction, special assistance for unaccompanied refugee children, integration in the labor market and educational system, the creation of additional day-care slots, and access to health care.
Assisting and empowering young migrants
Young people, including young refugees, have a right to education. Child-care centers, schools, vocational training programs and universities also play a crucial role in language learning and social integration. The current influx of refugees and migrants to Germany is increasing the need for educational resources and for new expertise in educational institutions, since displaced children have unique learning needs. In order to identify and accommodate those needs, educational professionals and practitioners will require additional training, specialized materials and supportive conditions if they are to provide individualized instruction and assistance.
Recognizing skills and opening doors
Work is critical if people are to lead self-determined lives and participate in society. However, it is especially difficult for refugees to enter the working world. It is often unclear if they will be allowed to stay in their host country. They sometimes face legal obstacles and usually lack knowledge of the local language and culture. Many have experienced traumatic situations. As a result, they require various forms of specialized support. One streamlined process must be created that includes all the relevant public and private organizations and institutions. A number of measures must be closely and effectively coordinated if refugees are to have viable long-term prospects for finding employment: support during asylum-application procedures, language learning that begins as soon as possible, career counseling and internships at local businesses, an assessment of occupational qualifications, and assistance in finding a job or vocational training program.
Diversity, tolerance and values – in practice
The refugee situation is greatly increasing the focus on fundamental social and human values, as well as on the issues of diversity and tolerance. It is turning integration into a challenge in two respects: Those now arriving must be integrated into German society, while those already living in the country must continue to feel that they belong. The integration of refugees is crucial; it is also changing Germany’s social cohesion and the majority’s attitudes toward non-natives. At the Bertelsmann Stiftung, we are committed to generating the knowledge needed to respond to this situation and to making it available for objective discussion.